MERS-COV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus)
The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a disease caused by a new virus that causes a rapid onset of severe respiratory disease in people. It is viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and first called as Novel coronavirus 2012 or simply novel coronavirus, after genome sequencing of a virus isolated from sputum samples from patients who fell ill in a 2012 outbreak of a new flu. MERS-CoV has caused outbreaks in the Middle East and sporadic cases around the world. Just recently, international health experts started getting alarmed over the surge in infections and deaths in Saudi Arabia.
In April 2014, the Ministry of Health in Malaysia and the Ministry of Health of Greece have each reported their first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in travellers who returned from Saudi Arabia. The official WHO MERS count is 238, with 92 deaths. As of 27 Apr 2014 there are 339 confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia, with 102 deaths. All cases have lived in or travelled to the Middle East, or have had close contact with people who acquired the infection in the Middle East. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half of these people died. As of May 9 – 2014, MERS-CoV cases have been reported in several countries Arab Emirates, and Yemen (Middle East); France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom (Europe); Tunisia and Egypt (Africa); Malaysia and the Philippines (Asia); and the United States of America (Americas).
This virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact. However, the virus has not shown to spread in a sustained way in communities. There is growing evidence that direct or indirect contact with camels play a significant role in the virus transmission. Some of the infections have occurred in clusters between individuals in close contact with one another and an increasing number of infections have occurred among health care workers in health care settings, indicating the importance of following strict infection control practices. This suggests that the virus can spread between humans, however, there has been no sustained person-to-person transmission and the risk of contracting this infection is still considered to be low.
There is no vaccine yet but the cure or vaccine for the MERS-CoV may already be near. Two studies published in different leading scientific journals said scientists have identified antibodies that could potentially be used towards the development of a cure or vaccine treatment against the novel virus.
Symptoms of the MERS-CoV:
• Sudden and serious respiratory illness
• Influenza-like illness
• Symptoms of pneumonia
• Chest pain and cough
• Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties
• Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea
How to Protect Yourself from MERS-CoV?
• Avoid close contact with animals when visiting farms or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating
• Regularly wash hands before and after touching animals
• Avoid contact with sick animals
• Follow food hygiene practices
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
• Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs
The following countries have reported cases of MERS:
Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United States