Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral illness that primarily affects the respiratory system, caused by Coronavirus which is abbreviated as MERS-CoV. Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses with single-stranded (+ss) RNA and belong to Coronaviradae family. MERS-CoV transmission, in addition, it’s the same culprit responsible for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
It’s also the second most common virus causing the common cold, Rhinovirus being the first.
MERS-CoV was first identified and reported to WHO in September 2012. As of July 2015, there are 1342 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection, which include more than 500 deaths, and about 85% of the MERS-CoV cases are reported from the Middle East region.
Majority of the cases are reported from Saudi Arabia that counts more than 1,000 infections. The fatality rate of MERS-CoV is approximately 40%, which is an alarming sign for all the individuals, physicians and the public health workers.
In fact, the virus spread tremendously reaching South Korea, the second on the list hit by the above-mentioned infection.
Recently, first MERS-CoV case was reported in the Kingdom of Thailand, making it 17th country with the travel-associated MERS case.
According to Bumrungrad International Hospital officials, a 75-year-old Middle East man presented at the emergency room with flu-like symptoms. After a thorough examination and screening, the patient was assessed as high risk for MERS-CoV.
Later, the patient was treated in an isolation ward at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute. Two weeks after tested positive, the patient was declared virus free and was discharged from the hospital.
It is believed that it all started from the camels. Therefore, MERS is also commonly known as camel-flu. The dromedary camel was the source of MERS-CoV transmission in which the infected patient had a close contact with the nasal secretions of the infected camel.
MERS-CoV infections suggest zoonotic, MERS-CoV transmission from animal reservoir to humans. In addition, secondary transmission from human to human has also been confirmed in healthcare and domestic settings. Thus, camels act as intermediate hosts that transfer the virus from the reservoir to humans.
Generally, symptoms appear 5-7 days after the exposure with the virus i.e. fever, rhinorrhea, cough, malaise, myalgia. These symptoms are followed by shortness of breath that gradually worsens. Most common complications are severe pneumonia, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and kidney failure.
Some people also had gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, chronic lung and kidney diseases, are more likely to be infected with MERS-CoV. People with weak immune systems are also at higher risk for acquiring the virus or having severe symptoms of MERS.
It is advised that if you develop these symptoms within 14 days upon your return from the Middle East countries, immediately visit your nearby healthcare center or seek an urgent medical care to maximize safety.
If you are traveling to the endemic areas, wear a mask, wear goggles or face shield and maintain hand hygiene at all times. The healthcare workers are strictly advised to take all sort of preventive measures to stop the spread of MERS-CoV infection on our planet. As we all know, prevention is better than cure so spread this information now!