First MERS related death reported in Germany

A man has died in Germany as a result of the deadly MERS virus, which has claimed the lives of 19 people in South Korea and left around 5,500 in quarantine in the last month.

The 65-year-old man died in the western town of Ostercappeln on 6 June of a lung disease. It is reported that he contracted the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) infection during a visit to a livestock market on the Arabian peninsula. Camels are thought to carry the virus.

According to Michael Schissbaenker, the press spokesperson from the German firm Niels-Stensen-Kliniken GmbH, which reported the death and which sponsors a number of German clinics, the man died from complications as a result of having contracted MERS.

"He didn't die directly from MERS, but from further complications," Schissbaenker told Newsweek. "MERS was the reason he was so weak, which meant he then contracted a disease in his lungs, from which he died. His body was so weakened he was not capable of fighting it".

There are no indications so far that the man has infected anyone else. Some 200 people he had come into contact with have been tested for MERS, all of which came back with negative results, according to Die Welt newspaper.

Officials say 150 people have now contracted the virus in South Korea since 20 May, almost half of these cases have come from one hospital. The outbreak in South Korea originated from a 68-year-old man who had travelled to the Middle East.

Today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is expected to hold an emergency session to address the outbreak in South Korea, which is the largest to occur outside of Saudi Arabia.

The disease was first identified in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012. There is currently no vaccine or cure for the virus, and it is not certain how the disease is transmitted.

According to the WHO, the outbreak in South Korea is "large and complex" and it has warned that more cases should be anticipated.

South Korea is to begin trials of an experimental plasma treatment, which uses blood from patients who have successfully fought off the same infection.

Despite the recent death in Germany, some experts say there is no fear the disease will spread to Europe. Speaking to Deutsche Welle, virologist Christian Drosten, said: "It is quite normal during such epidemics to have such suspected cases in other countries, as people travel a lot nowadays. However, it does not mean that there is an immediate danger for Europe".

"In Europe there is a greater probability that someone from the Middle East may spread the virus," he continued. "There have been several instances of viruses being transmitted to Europe in this way. But in none of such cases did it lead to an outbreak."