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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that cause severe illness. In 2003, the first known illness caused by a coronavirus- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was reported in China. A second outbreak Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) occurred in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of MERS.

The MERS outbreak occurred at the end of November 2019 in Saudi Arabia. A total of 2494 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) cases were confirmed, including 858 deaths globally; 2102 confirmed cases, including 780 deaths were reported from Saudi Arabia, as per the data by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the American Lung Association, more than 20 countries have reported cases of MERS.

What Is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, also called MERS-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a viral illness that severely infects your lungs. It is caused by a virus that belongs to the coronavirus family [1].

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Causes Of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

MERS-CoV is a zoonotic virus, meaning it can spread from animals to humans. Exposure to camels or camel products were the source of MERS-CoV infection in humans. The presences of antibodies to the virus have been found in camels in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar [2].

MERS-CoV is transmitted easily when a person comes in close contact with an infected camel. The virus can enter the human body through air or by the consumption of raw camel milk or uncooked camel meat.


Symptoms Of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Cough with or without blood
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Stomach pain

In severe cases, patients with MERS-CoV may develop pneumonia and may experience kidney damage, difficulty in breathing, high fever and even death.

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Incubation Period Of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

The symptoms of MERS develop within 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus.

Risk Factors Of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) [3]

  • People with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and chronic lung disease
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Older people
  • People who are taking immunosuppressants

Diagnosis Of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

The doctor will physically examine you and ask about your symptoms and your recent travel history. Then for diagnosis, samples will be taken from the patient's respiratory tract. Polymerase chain reaction testing (RT-PCR testing) is a diagnostic test that confirms the presence of MERS-CoV in the body [4].

Blood tests, chest X-ray, lung secretion test and kidney function tests can also help determine if a person has been infected or not.


Treatment Of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

There is no specific treatment or vaccine to cure MERS-CoV, however, most patients with mild symptoms can recover with the help of medications. They should be isolated to prevent the spreading of the disease. In severe cases, patients may have lung failure [5].

Prevention Of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables properly before eating.
  • Avoid consuming undercooked meat and food prepared in unhygienic conditions.
  • Avoid close contact with people who develop an acute respiratory illness.