Government health organizations are warning against the spread of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) as people come home from the World Cup in Qatar. MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus, similar to COVID-19. “MERS is a rare but severe respiratory virus that may afflict Middle Eastern travelers,” Australian health officials warn.
“It is transmitted by intimate contact with diseased camels or by consuming uncooked camel meat or unpasteurized camel milk. There is presently no available vaccination. Reduce your risk of MERS by practicing good hygiene, avoiding direct contact with camels, and avoiding eating raw meat or unpasteurized milk.”
MERS was originally identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. “Approximately 35% of cases reported to WHO have died,” according to the World Health Organization, “although this may be an overestimation of the true fatality rate, as mild cases of MERS may be missed by present monitoring systems.”
Saudi Arabia has documented over 80% of human cases, primarily as a result of direct or indirect contact with sick dromedary camels or infected persons in healthcare facilities. Cases found outside the Middle East are mainly people who appear to have been infected in the Middle East and then traveled to other parts of the world. To date, only a few outbreaks have occurred outside of the Middle East.”
So, how can people safeguard themselves from MERS? “Unlike influenza or the common cold, MERS-CoV does not appear to spread easily among community members,” explains Pritish K. Tosh, MD. “Instead, MERS-CoV has spread largely among persons who are in close relationships, such as people living with or giving direct care to an infected person. There is presently no vaccination available to protect against MERS-CoV.
However, like with any virus, you can lower your risk of infection by following these guidelines:
• Wash your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
• When you cough or sneeze, use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth. Throw used tissues in the garbage right away, and then thoroughly wash your hands.
• Surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs, should be disinfected.
• Unwashed hands should not be used to touch your face, mouth, or nose.
• Share no cups, utensils, or other belongings with the sick.”
Experts have identified five MERS symptoms. Continue reading—and don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID to protect your health and the health of others.
1. difficult breathing
Breathing difficulties are a frequent early symptom of MERS. “MERS-CoV infection has a clinical spectrum that varies from no symptoms (asymptomatic) through mild respiratory symptoms to severe acute respiratory illness and mortality. MERS typically manifests as fever, cough, and shortness of breath “According to the WHO.
MERS is very contagious. “However, unlike COVID-19, which spread swiftly over the world,” explains the Cleveland Clinic. “MERS transmission necessitates close contact, such as between family members or in a medical context. MERS has not spread throughout the town, according to health experts.
MERS can potentially be contracted from camels. Camel strains of MERS mirror human strains in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries. This shows that MERS is being transmitted from camels to humans.”
According to doctors, fever is another prevalent sign of MERS. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a person with MERS may have no symptoms, moderate cold-like symptoms, or a severe life-threatening infection.
“MERS typically causes respiratory symptoms such as coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. If you experience respiratory problems, your doctor will inquire about your medical history. Inform your provider if you have recently traveled or had contact with ill people or camels. Laboratory testing can detect whether you have active MERS or whether you have had a past MERS infection.”
Because MERS is contagious, persons suspected of having it should isolate themselves as soon as feasible (as with COVID-19). Infected persons were believed to be “doctor shopping” during a 2015 outbreak in South Korea.
“The accessibility and affordability of health care in Korea encourage ‘doctor shopping,’ with people routinely consulting specialists at multiple institutions before deciding on a first-choice facility,” the WHO said at the time.
Another symptom of MERS is a bloody cough. “MERS-CoV symptoms range from moderate to severe. “Some people have no symptoms or symptoms that are akin to a minor upper respiratory illness,” explains Dr. Tosh.
“But many people have fever and cough that escalate to pneumonia. Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are all common digestive system indications and symptoms. The kidneys and the lining around the heart can potentially be harmed.
“MERS-CoV can cause respiratory or renal failure and can be deadly. If you’re an older adult, have a reduced immune system, or have a chronic disease like diabetes or lung disease, you’re more vulnerable to serious illness. MERS-CoV treatment focuses on symptom relief and involves rest, water, pain medications, and, in extreme instances, oxygen therapy.”
Some MERS patients experience gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea. Because healthcare workers are at high risk of contracting MERS, there has previously been fear that globe-trotting doctors and nurses could unintentionally spread the illness. “This is how MERS might spread over the world,” Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja warned.
“There isn’t much that public health officials or border agents can do,” infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm said. “Sure, they can question someone, ‘Did you work in a healthcare facility in Saudi Arabia?’ but what happens if the answer is yes?” Healthcare personnel, according to Osterholm, are best prepared to be aware of the dangers, and “there should be a heightened awareness among them of suspected MERS signs.”
Doctors say vomiting is another indication of MERS. “Extrapulmonary signs are typical in severe MERS disease, as they are in SARS,” says Robert M. Kliegman, MD. “One-third of patients experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and acute renal injury has been observed in half of the critically sick patients. In three cases, encephalitis-like neurologic symptoms were found.”
To avoid epidemics, the CDC carefully monitors all MERS cases “The CDC continues to actively monitor the global MERS situation.
The CDC is collaborating with the World Health Organization and other partners to better understand the virus, how it spreads, where it comes from, and the threats to public health. We realize that MERS-CoV has the potential to spread farther and cause more cases in the United States and around the world.”
How To Protect yourself and stay safe
Get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear a N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others.