The deadly MERS virus has been identified in the U.S. for the first time, the latest indication of the spread of a disease that emerged two years ago in the Middle East. A health-care provider who returned to the U.S. a week ago after working at a health-care facility in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was sickened by the virus and is hospitalized in Indiana.
What is MERS
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness that originated in the middle east. It is a coronavirus (MARS-Cov) which can infect many different animals and cause them to have respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver, and neurologic diseases. At some point, infections of humans come into play once they jump from animals. If the coronavirus sounds familiar, think SARS. They are both similar just a different mutation.
Countries around the Arabian peninsula such as Saudi Arabia have been trying to fight the infection since 2012. Since this disease is fairly new, there is an urgency to find out all the information possible to fight it. It is believed to have jumped from camel or bats to humans. Camels have a long-standing tradition in the middle east culture.
The side effects include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. So far about 30% of people infected with MERS have died. This virus is spread from infected people to others through close contact. MERS does not seem to be airborne and capable of infecting a larger population. However, due to the fact that this virus is relatively new, healthcare providers are being infected in larger than expected numbers.
Now it has come to the US from the middle east. So far it has been isolated to one person who happened to be a healthcare provider working in Saudi Arabia. The hospital staff who assisted his sickness were also isolated to confirm that no further infection occurred. I think the CDC does a great job of catching viruses before they affect the mass population. So far this seems to be an isolated incident.
- 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.
Are you doing your part in preventing spreading disease?