Wednesday - Jun 19, 2019

What You Need to Know About MERS Corona Virus?

mers corona virus

According to World Health Organization (WHO), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) refers to a kind of viral disease that attacks the respiratory system.  It is caused by a corona virus which was isolated in Saudi Arabia last 2012. An Egyptian virologist named Dr. Ali Mohamed Zaki identified and isolated the unknown virus from the lung of a 60-year old patient in Jeddah who died of pneumonia. Corona virus comes from a large family of virus that causes varying levels of diseases from a common cold to the most feared Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS.   

Symptoms of MERS

A person who got infected with Mers-CoV typically shows shortness of breathing, cough, and fever.  In some reported cases, an infected person may also show signs of gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea. Examination also reveals pneumonia. In severe cases, a respiratory failure may occur that requires support like mechanical ventilation in the Intensive Care Unit. Patients may also suffer from septic shock and organ failure particularly in the kidneys.

The virus affects people who have weak immune systems particularly the older people and those who are suffering from chronic diseases such as lung disease, cancer and diabetes.  Record shows that nearly 27% of patients with MERS-CoV have died.  

How People Become Infected?

There is no clear-cut information how people can get infected with MERS-CoV.  There are some reported cases that probably persons were infected by animals and or they got the virus upon exposure to the infected person.  Recently reported cases have shown that the virus was spread through close contact by a health-care worker, patients and or a family member.  There are also some communities who reported cases of MERS but no probable source of infection was found out.

MERS is a contagious disease but the virus is not easily passed from one person to another unless there is a direct contact.  Health care workers and family members are at risks of getting an infection if they provide unprotected care to the patient.  Adequate control and prevention should be observed to avoid human-to -human transmission. So far, there is no any documented community transmission that occurs from the affected countries according to WHO.

Why Camels are thought to be the Source of MERS Infection?

It is important to note that up to this date, there is no full information that could provide for the exact source of MERS Corona Virus. However, studies revealed that probably the camels are the potential source of MERS in humans.

In fact, strains of MERS corona virus were isolated from camels in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt. Scientist even found out MERS-CoV antibodies in the camels across Middle East and Africa. Studies also showed that there is a close link between the genetic sequence of humans and camels that could be the probable reasons why the possibility of reservoir exists. Other domestic animals were also tested for MERS antibodies like cows, goats, sheep, and others but the results were negative.

As follows, it is very important for people visiting barns, farms and places where there are domestic animals to practice hygiene measures like hand washing.  Avoid touching sick animals and if possible avoid consumption of undercooked or raw meats and other animal products.  Doing so, may lessen the risks of getting infected with organisms that may cause diseases.

What are the possible Treatment and Intervention?

Sadly, there is no any specific treatment or intervention for MERS.  There is also no vaccine available to prevent the spread of the virus. However, supportive treatments are available to help alleviate the patient’s condition.

Countries with Confirmed MERS Cases

A number of countries have reported MERS cases such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, Yemen and United Arab Emirates. There are also reported cases in United States of America, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece, Germany, Philippines, and Malaysia.  According to World Health Organization, the virus appears to circulate widely in Arabian Peninsula.

All the reported cases of MERS that were outside of Arabian Peninsula were first developed in the Middle East.  The cases were usually travel-related except for UK and France which is believed to be human-to-human transmission.

What Health-Care Workers Should Do?

In this manner, it is also very crucial for health-care workers to observe standard precautionary measures particularly when they are dealing with patients having MERS-CoV.  Suspected patients are hard to diagnose without prior testing considering that the clinical symptoms are non-specific.  Eye protection and other contact precautions should be observed and added.  Air-borne precautions are also recommended by WHO particularly when aerosol-generating procedures are performed.

The threat of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is alarming but with precautionary and general hygiene measures, the spread of the infection can be prevented.  Awareness and the support of the key-health organizations is the solution to prevent the spread of the disease. Airport and or transport operators are also encouraged to be vigilant in reporting suspected travellers who shows signs and symptoms of MERS-CoV infection. It is also important to be updated and to follow travel advisories to reduce the possible risks of being exposed to MERS-CoV.