Mers Virus Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is an illness that has only been recently discovered. Primarily a problem in the Middle East, there have been two reported cases in the United States in 2014, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The illness is not expected to have a significant impact on overall health, but some people are more at risk than others. Thus, taking precautionary measures is advised. Prevention and awareness play important roles in avoiding the MERS virus and minimizing its spread.

What Is The MERS Virus?

MERS is a viral illness that attacks the lungs and breathing tubes of infected individuals. Technically it is a coronavirus named MERS-CoV. Severity of the illness depends in large part on the person’s health status before contracting the illness. It has been reported that 30% of infected people have died as a result of the MERS virus, but most of those individuals suffered from other pre-existing health complications. In general, most people make a full recovery from the infection.

Origin Of The MERS Virus

The virus responsible for MERS, MERS-CoV, has been identified in some Middle Eastern animals, such as camels and bats, but the exact source is currently unknown. It is assumed that the virus was passed to humans through the physical contact with an infected animal. Eventually cases were traced to a possible beginning in Jordan in April of 2012 and Saudi Arabia in September of 2012. The virus appears to be communicative, but there does not seem to be an overwhelming threat of rampant spreading of the infection in specific locations.

Symptoms Of MERS

The MERS virus is characterized as an acute respiratory infection, which includes symptoms such as shortness of breath, severe coughing, and fever. Some people develop gastrointestinal complications, such as diarrhea, putting them at risk of problems related to dehydration. In a few incidents, MERS led to the development of pneumonia and kidney failure.

Prevention And Treatment

If MERS has been confirmed, infected people can expect to have symptoms treated. There is no specific vaccine or cure associated with the MERS virus. Fortunately, with good care, the chances of a full recovery are likely in healthy individuals. The CDC recommends that people take general precautions for preventing MERS.
Frequent and thorough hand-washing or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers go a long way in controlling the spread of the virus. Coughing or sneezing into a tissue and then disposing of the contaminated tissue properly also minimizes the spread of the illness. Keep hands away from the face, eyes, nose, and mouth, particularly if they are unwashed. Disinfect surfaces and avoid sharing glasses or foods with other people.

The Bottom Line

Taking precautions helps to minimize the chance of being affected by MERS and keeping the virus under control. If there has been exposure to the illness, help is available to treat the symptoms. Ultimately, a proactive approach provides the most protection. So, be aware and practice prevention.

image provide by  Scinceside (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons