MERS Coronavirus Is on a Serious Rampage

mersThe Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronavirus has been on a serious rampage in the Middle East. There have been recent reports of surges of the deadly virus in numerous Middle Eastern countries, and now countries in Southeast Asia are being affected. The first cases of the virus in the Philippines and Malaysia have been reported.

The MERS-CoV is a fairly new strain in the coronavirus family, that the SARS virus also belongs to. It was first identified in the Middle East in 2012. The respiratory virus can cause symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, and possible symptoms of pneumonia. It can also cause diarrhea and kidney failure.

There has been a surge in reported cases of the virus in the past few weeks in Saudi Arabia. In the city of Jeddah, two deaths were reported in two days. The two deaths, which occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday, became the latest deaths from MERS in that country, bringing the total number of infections to 205, and the death toll to 71. There were four other infections reported on Tuesday, three of which were medics.

King Fahd General Hospital was hit hard by the sudden increase in MERS infections, and had to temporarily close its emergency room last week for what authorities called disinfection measures against the virus. An Australian epidemiologist, Dr. Ian M. Mackay, has been tracking the outbreak and explained that health-care workers accounted for about 50 of the overall cases. “As far as we know, MERS-CoV does not spread easily from person-to-person, so these clusters suggest a breakdown in infection prevention and control,” he said. According to reports on Wednesday from local media, four doctors working at the hospital refused to treat MERS patients and then resigned, assumedly from fear of catching the virus.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have also reported numerous cases of the virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), on April 13 and 14 there were 10 laboratory-confirmed cases among healthcare workers from Abu Dhabi reported. These cases were identified through screenings of people in contact with a person who died from the virus on April 10.

The UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) and Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad) are determined to ease citizens’ fears of the serious MERS Coronavirus rampage. The MoH and Haad reported that these patients are in hospital isolation, but are well and expected to recover from, and be free of the virus in 10 to 14 days. Haad announced on Tuesday that three new cases of MERS had been revealed through screenings of contacts of those who had been infected, but says that these cases are all asymptomatic. On Sunday the government in Yemen confirmed the country’s first known case.

Malaysia has now been affected by its first recorded case of the virus as well. A 54-year-old man who returned to Malaysia after a pilgrimage to Mecca has died from MERS. He was hospitalized on April 10 with fever, coughing, and breathing problems. The health minister of Malaysia, S. Subramaniam, said that the man died three days later after suffering from severe pneumonia caused by the virus. An effort to find those in contact with this man ensued, and 15 people who were in contact with him have been quarantined.

In the Philippines a nurse returning from the UAE was quarantined after testing positive for the respiratory virus. The man had been in contact with a Filipino paramedic in the UAE who died last week from MERS. Health Secretary Enrique Ona reported that the nurse and his relatives have been put in isolation, but none who have been hospitalized have shown symptoms of the virus. Mr. Ona expressed that the nurse is not feeling sick, but is still contagious and can infect others.  About a dozen people who were near the nurse on his flight back to the Philippines have been informed, and will be watched for the next couple of weeks.

Medical studies have revealed that camels are one host of the virus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. SARS spreads more quickly, but this respiratory virus appears to be more deadly, and experts are struggling to understand it.

The WHO reports that as of April 16, the serious rampage of MERS Coronavirus has claimed the lives of 92 people in 10 countries, out of 238 total confirmed cases.

By Twanna Harps


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