MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
MERS is a viral respiratory illness and stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. It is called so because it was first reported in Saudi Arabia in the April, 2012. Cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome have been linked to the countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. Cases of MERS have also been reported in France, Italy, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom (UK).
Cause of MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
MERS is caused by a virus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which belongs to the Coronavirus family of viruses. MERS Virus belongs to the genus Betacoronavirus. Coronavirus family of viruses includes viruses that usually cause respiratory tract illnesses like the common cold in human beings, and also, these viruses cause a number of diseases in animals. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Spread of MERS Virus
This virus spreads from the infected people to other people through Close Contact. The term – Close Contact – includes any person such as a family member or a healthcare worker who provides care for the patient; any person that has close physical contact with the sick; any person who stays at the same place as the sick person; and any person who visits the place of the sick.
Symptoms of MERS
Most people who get infected with MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) develop severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and Dyspnea (shortness of breath). Some people get only mild respiratory illness.
People who have developed respiratory illness or breathing difficulties, within 14 days after travel from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries, which cannot be explained by any other type of illness or virus should see a physician as soon as possible (ASAP). Also, people with immune deficiencies or those who are immunocompromised due to immunosupressant medication or transplantation, may require special medical consideration, as in them, MERS may have an atypical presentation of symptoms.
Lab Tests For MERS
Lab tests (PCR or polymerase chain reaction) for MERS-CoV are currently available at selected labs/health centers only.
Treatment For MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
No vaccine is currently available to prevent a person from contracting MERS virus. No specific medical treatments are available for this viral disease. Available medical care is largely supportive and aimed at relieving clinical symptoms presented by a patient.
Currently, at the time of publishing of this article, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, USA) have reported that about half (50 %) of the patients have died. Thus, the current mortality rate is about 50%.
Protection Advice – How to Protect Yourself From MERS?
Following the below listed tips can help protect a person from getting the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome:
• Thoroughly and frequently wash your hands with soap and water (follow and practice hand hygiene principles). Make sure your children do the same. If in case, soap and water are not available, you use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Whenever you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue paper. Dispose the used tissue paper immediately in the trash after use.
• Never touch your nose, mouth, and eyes with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact like sharing cups or other utensils, kissing, physical contact, etc with any person who shows symptoms of a respiratory illness.
• Frequently clean and disinfect touched surfaces like doorknobs, toys, etc.
• Avoid eating uncooked or undercooked meat, chicken, and other non-vegetarian food. Avoid eating unwashed or unpeeled fruits or vegetables. Do not consume unpurified water or drinks made without the use of clean water.