1 May 2014| Last updated on 19 April 2017
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
Here's everything you need to know about MERS, its symptoms, treatments and how you can prevent the virus...
There's often news stories about MERS in this region of the world, so here we take a look at the latest information about the virus from the HAAD (Health Authority Abu Dhabi ) CDC (Centre for Disease Control) and WHO (The World Health Organisation) to make sure you know all about the virus. It is life threatening to the very young, very old and sick and recent studies are linking the possible source of the virus to camels.
MERS 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, including the United States. Most people infected with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Many individuals have died from MERS.
Symptoms of MERS
Most people who got infected with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half of them died. Some people were reported as having a mild respiratory illness.
Some individuals may also suffer gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea and vomiting. For many people with MERS, more sever complications followed, such as pneumonia and kidney failure.
About 3 - 4 out of every 10 people reported with MERS have died, and most of those who passed had an underlying medical condition.
We don’t know for certain where the virus came from, but health officials first reported the disease in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It likely came from an animal source, as
in addition to humans, MERS-CoV has been found in camels in Qatar and a bat in Saudi Arabia. Camels in a few other countries have also tested positive for antibodies to MERS-CoV, indicating they were previously infected with MERS-CoV or a closely related virus. However, we don’t know whether camels are the source of the virus.
More information is needed to identify the possible role that camels, bats, and other animals may play in the transmission of MERS-CoV.
MERS-CoV has spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person.
MERS can affect anyone. MERS patients have ranged in age from younger than 1 to 99 years old in known cases.
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Protection against MERS-CoV
- 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 sanitizer.
- 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.
- Wear masks in mass gatherings like Haj or Umrah.
There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for MERS-CoV infection. Individuals with MERS can seek medical care to help relieve sumptoms. For severe cases, current treatmenti ncludes care to support vital organ functions.
The Cenre for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend that anyone change their travel plans because of MERS. The current CDC travel notice is a Watch (Level 1) which advises travellers to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula to follow standard precautions, such as hand washing and avoiding contact with people who are ill.
If you have recently travelled to countries in the Arabian Peninsula or neighbouring countries and got sick and develop a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel, you should see your healthcare provider and mention your recent travel.
Countries in the Arabian Peninsula and neighbouring countries: Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen.
Find out more from the CDC here>>
Information from WHO
To keep track of updates and information from the World Health Organisation, please visit this page here.
Latest News from HAAD
The Health Authority, Abu Dhabi (HAAD) monitors the situation of MERS Coronavirus very closely in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, and they wish to reassure the public that it is not a public health concern.
The most important aspect of tackling this novel Coronavirus, MERS-CoV, is to try to understand much more about it than is currently known. As such, HAAD has engaged with world authorities from expert international organisations on numerous occassions in Abu Dhabi to help shed light on various aspects of the virus, including modes of transmission, and best practise in managing viral infections of this type.
The MOH stated that the WHO confirmed the virus is not a concern for public health at the moment, and that recent situations of MERS does not require a travel ban to any country in the world, screenings at different ports, or any restrictions on trade. The MOH confirmed that it is monitoring the situation closely to ensure the health and safety of everyone.
Advice From The Ministry Of Health, Dubai
Information from the CDC
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. 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.
So far, all the cases have been linked to six countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. 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. The situation is still evolving.
CDC is working with partners to better understand the risks of this virus, including the source, how it spreads, and how infections might be prevented. CDC has provided information for travellers and is working with health departments, hospitals, and other partners to prepare for possible cases in the United States.