The source of SARS was ultimately discovered to be animals consumed as food in Chinese markets, including civet cats and bats. The disease disappeared as mysteriously and suddenly as it appeared and no known cases have emerged since 2003, although the risk remains at least theoretically since it is unlikely that the virus has disappeared altogether even if it is not active in humans at this time.
Coronaviruses emerged as a cause of human disease once again in 2012, but this time in Saudi Arabia with the appearance and recognition of MERS, a disease with similar symptoms, although it appears to be more deadly than SARS. MERS has proven fatal in about 30% of cases whereas SARS was fatal in only about 10% of patients. MERS has spread through travelers as well, although as this time the outbreak has not been as widespread as SARS.
MERS does not appear to spread among people with anywhere near the ease with which SARS was transmitted, although it is still considered to be transmissible between people. Transmission between people has thus far been limited to those in very close and prolonged contact with those infected, especially family members, as well as healthcare workers caring for those infected with MERS. Spread in the general community through shared surface contact appears to be limited as this time, although it cannot be completely ruled out. MERS has infected at least two people in the United States to date, both of whom had a history of travel to, and work in the healthcare field in, Saudi Arabia.
The source of MERS appears to be camels, although bats may also be implicated. The source seems to be Saudi Arabia, although infections are also not uncommon in neighboring countries due to frequent movement of people and animals across international borders in the region. The incidence of MERS seems to have declined, but again, it could become active again at any time and appropriate precautions against exposure remain prudent.
Along with frequent hand washing, the most effective and highly recommended means of preventing the spread of coronaviruses, including those that cause the common cold among children and adults, as well as those strains that cause SARS and MERS is the frequent and thorough disinfection of shared surfaces such as doorknobs, handles, handrails, and any other surfaces shared by people with a cleaner and disinfectant that is demonstrated and proven effective against coronaviruses. Very few cleaners and disinfectants on the market today have laboratory proven and EPA registered effectiveness against coronaviruses and consumers should be aware that only those agents that are proven and registered can be 100% relied upon to kill coronaviruses and provide protection from disease.
All healthcare facilities, gyms, daycare centers, schools, or other locations where large groups of people congregate and share surfaces should be concerned about breaking the chain of transmission for coronaviruses amongst their customers and clients. And, any place with a high number of children should consider protection against coronaviruses especially since infection with the common cold causing variants is most common amongst children. Individual households should also consider the advantages of eliminating potential coronavirus contamination from surfaces, contamination that could easily enter the house on the hands of anyone who has contact with shared surfaces in the larger world, which is essentially everyone, especially children in daycare or school settings. A reduced incidence of colds, and even worse infections, could be the result of proper and frequent cleaning and disinfection with an agent proven effective against coronaviruses!