The world's leading health officials are frantically studying a new mystery virus called MERS in an effort to avoid a serious outbreak. It's a disease that's killed half of all the people diagnosed with it, and experts say it's only a matter of time before it arrives in the United States.
Its victims all have one thing in common: they've either traveled to the Middle East or have come in very close contact with someone who did.
"We really need as fast as possible to learn how to control this virus. We have to try to run faster than the virus does," Gregory Hartl, spokesperson for World Health Organization, said.
Forty-nine cases of the new disease have been reported since June. Twenty-seven of those cases have died. That's a 52 percent mortality rate.
The first cases were reported in Saudi Arabia, but already people in at least seven countries have become infected.
Health experts compare the virus to SARS, the deadly respiratory virus that took off nearly 10 years ago.
It first spread between 12 hotel guests and then across the entire globe after those guests got on airplanes. Within nine months there were more than 8,000 cases and more than 700 deaths.
Researchers say they are clueless, but warn MERS is as deadly, if not more so than SARS. For now, they know that the symptoms of MERS include fever, chills, and muscle aches, followed by breathing problems. But its still unclear what the host animal of the virus is, and how it spread to humans.