MERS is as deadly as Ebola


Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is a viral respiratory illness that is new to humans. It was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to several other countries.

In fact, on Tuesday, it was reported that a ninth person had died from MERS and another 13 had contracted the virus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in South Korea to 108. Also, more than 2,800 people have remained quarantined, either at home or in health facilities; while more than 2,000 schools remain closed.

Worldwide, statistics, according to a January 2015 World Health Organisation report, reveals that there has been 956 laboratory-confirmed positive cases of MERS-CoV infection, which include at least 351 deaths, and all reported cases have been directly or indirectly linked through travel to or residence in nine countries: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iran.

In the United States, two patients tested positive for MERS-CoV in May 2014, each of whom had a history of fever and one or more respiratory symptoms after recent travel from Saudi Arabia (Source: CDC).

At the moment, the full picture of the source of MERS virus is not yet clear. However, serological evidence shows that the virus originated from bats and was spread to camels in the mid 1990s. By 2010, the virus had spread from camels to humans. In fact, strains of MERS CoV that match human strains have been isolated from camels in Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

It is possible that other reservoirs exist. However, other animals, including goats, cows, sheep, water buffalo, swine and wild birds have been tested for antibodies to MERS CoV; but so far, none has been found in these animals.

Once MERS is contacted, the virus appears to pass from an infected person to another person in close contact. This has been seen among family members, patients and health care workers.

Symptoms of a typical case of MERS in humans consist of fever, cough and shortness of breath. In some cases, patients have also been reported to have pneumonia and diarrhoea. The virus appears to cause more severe disease in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with such chronic diseases as diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease. Approximately 27 per cent of patients with MERS have died.

At the moment, there is no vaccine or any specific treatment regimen. Treatment is supportive therapy based on the patient’s clinical presentation.

To prevent MERS, avoid unnecessary travels to areas where outbreaks are ongoing, and prevent direct contact with camels, camel excretions and raw camel products. Camel meat and camel milk are nutritious products that can continue to be consumed after pasteurisation, cooking or other heat treatments.

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Also, as a general precaution, anyone visiting farms, markets, barns or other places where animals are present should practice general hygiene measures, including regular hand washing before and after touching animals, and avoid contact with sick animals.

The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products, including milk and meat, carries a high risk of infection from a variety of organisms that might cause disease in humans. Animal products that have been processed appropriately through cooking or pasteurisation are safe for consumption, but they should be handled with care to prevent cross contamination with uncooked foods.

The relevant authorities should ensure that thorough ante-mortem and post-mortem procedures are carried out on all animals slaughtered, especially camels. Camel farms and slaughterhouse workers should practise good personal hygiene, including frequent hand washing after touching animals.

Protective clothing should always be worn during visits to farms where animals are being raised, and it should be removed after work and washed daily. Workers should also avoid exposing family members to soiled work clothing, shoes or other items that may have come into contact with camels or camel excretions. Sick animals should never be slaughtered for consumption.

To protect yourself from MERS and other respiratory illnesses, please ensure that you:

1, Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
2, Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue paper when you cough or sneeze; then throw the tissue in the trash can.
3, Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
4, Avoid close contacts such as kissing, sharing cups or eating utensils with sick people.
5, Wipe and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces such as toys, door knobs, furniture, commonly shared items, and the floor, at least once daily. Some viruses may survive for some time in the environment, but are easily destroyed by most detergents and other cleaning agents.

Have a beautiful weekend.

source: Olufemi Oboye

Also, The World Health Organization has said it is not recommending travel bans or sweeping airport screenings as part of the measures to prevent the spread of the MERS virus, which has now killed 11 people in South Korea.


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