MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome)

MERS (Camel flu, EMC/2012) – is a disease caused by special coronavirus named Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).

General information

Coronaviruses – is a family of viruses that unites RNA viruses of average size. It was first reported in 2012 after genome sequencing of a virus which was identified from sputum samples of patients who were sick in 2012 by new type of flu. This virus family name was given because of the villi located on the virus shell are shaped like the solar corona during an eclipse.

MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome)Coronaviruses multiply in the cytoplasm of infected cells with the child virions that appear in 4-6 hours after infection. In the external environment, coronaviruses are unstable and can be destroyed with a temperature of 56 ° C for 10-15 min.

Coronaviruses primarily cause respiratory infections. The clinical picture of these respiratory infections is difficult to distinguish from diseases caused by rhinovirus, so all of them belong to the group of acute respiratory infection (ARI).

The new coronavirus MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) was named so because it was identified as the causative agent of respiratory infections in the Middle East and its first victim was a man from Saudi Arabia.

As of June 2015, MERS-CoV cases have been found in over 20 countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Austria, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Mainland China and USA. And the most recent outbreak was in South Korea that includes over a hundred cases and some two dozen deaths.

MERS-CoV is zoonotic virus that is transmitted from animals. The origins of virus in not researched enough but according to analysis of virus genomes, it is believed that it appeared and was saved in bats and was transmitted to camels in past.

Mostly all people who suffered from MERS had severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of cough, fever, shortness of breath. This virus is spread from the infected people with symptoms to others in close contact with them such caring for or living together.

MERS is able to affect any person without reference to age or health status.

Healthcare organizations continue to observe all possible ways for treatment and prevention, try to understand the risk of virus, a source and how it spreads.

Symptoms and complications of MERS-CoV

For now, experts don’t have enough information about the symptoms of the new coronavirus infection.

The clinical picture of MERS ranges from no symptoms cases, mild respiratory symptoms cases and death cases.  Following symptoms have been observed in almost all patients: fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficult breathing. But it’s unknown if these symptoms are typical for the particular disease. Also, commonly was presented pneumonia and gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.

Approximately 36% of patients who were suffering from this virus died.

Some complications of MERS-CoV were notified including kidney failure.

Who is at increased risk for MERS?

The virus more likely will affect older people and individuals with weakened immune system.

There are health conditions that contribute to developing of the virus in a body such as diabetes, cancer, chronic lung diseases, heart diseases, and kidney diseases.

Transmission

Non-human to human transmission: it’s believed that camels and especially the young camels are the main animal reservoir host for MERS-CoV. This way of transmission in not fully understood by researched but it exists.

Human-to-human transmission: is more common way to transmit the virus when there is close contact with ill person, such as providing medical care in healthcare centres, hospitals etc. Researchers haven’t observed any ongoing spreading of MERS-CoV in community.

All reported cases are related to Arabian Peninsula within the meaning that all infected people were living there or recently travel to Arabian Peninsula. A few cases appeared after close contact with affected who traveled from the Arabian Peninsula.

Prevention and treatment

Currently, no vaccine or special treatment is available to prevent MERS. The U.S. National Institutes are working on it and it is still in a process.

Although, supportive treatment based on patient’s condition and some prevention methods exists. There are some advices:

  •        If you are going to visit farms, markets, barns or any places where are camels present, make sure you are following general hygienic norms like washing hands with soap for 20 seconds before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals. In case if soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  •        Don’t consume raw or undercooked animal products including meat, milk etc. Choose products processed through appropriate cooking or pasteurized especially camel meat or camel milk.
  •        Cover your nose and mouth with paper tissue if you cough or sneeze, then through the tissue into garbage
  •        Avoid touching your nose, eyes, mouth by unwashed hands
  •        Disinfect things of general use
  •        Avoid kissing, sharing food, drinks, dishes, utensil with sick people

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for people who have MERS-CoV, but it’s possible to get medication for relieving symptoms. In severe cases treatment includes support of fundamental organs functions.

People who work in sphere of health care, in hospitals and have a contact with sick people must be very careful and take care of safety of other patients decreasing the risk of transmission of the virus.

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