FAST FACTS: The MERS Coronavirus

Rappler.com
The WHO reports that about 36% of all cases of MERS – which has already reached at least 25 countries – resulted in death

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronavirus has now reached South Korea, where the outbreak is considered to be “large and complex.”

The outbreak in the Asian country has been spreading at an unusually fast pace, with its first case diagnosed on May 20. (READ: South Korea MERS virus outbreak ‘large and complex’ – WHO)

Cases of infection in the Philippines have been reported in the past. The last case was that of a nurse who was found positive upon her arrival in Manila from Saudi Arabia on February 1. She was cleared by the health department and was discharged from the hospital on February 20. (READ: Filipina nurse already clear of MERS-CoV)

Still not familiar with MERS Coronavirus? Here are a few things you need to know:

1. MERS Coronavirus is a contagious respiratory disease.

WHO said coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory illnesses in both humans and animals, ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS.

Never before seen in humans, it was initially referred to as the novel coronavirus (nCoV). It was later renamed MERS Coronavirus by the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, a group of experts organizing and authorizing the classification of viruses.

2. MERS can be transmitted by close contact with a person who tests positive with the virus.

People who may be infected by the virus include (1) those who shared close physical contact with the patient, (2) who lived with or visited the patient during their illness, and (3) even those who provided care for the patient.

3. A person with MERS may have no symptoms.

MERS patients have reported flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. Diarrhea and kidney failure are also possibilities.

However, WHO noted that not all patients would feel these symptoms as some are asymptomatic. It is difficult to detect MERS early as symptoms are not that specific.

You may be infected with MERS if you’re displaying these signs within 14 days of travel from countries with reported cases of the disease, or have made contact with patients suspected with the infection.

4. Children, pregnant women, people aged 65 and above, and those with weak immune system or chronic diseases are most vulnerable to the infection.

According to the Gulf News, majority of MERS infections have occurred among the elderly and people suffering from chronic illnesses. Due to the increasing number of MERS cases, the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health issued regulations that advise pilgrims, especially the elderly, to postpone their travel plans to the Middle East.

In the Philippines, DOH urged the public to practice proper hygiene.

5. Three to four in every 10 persons with MERS have died.

The WHO reported that about 36% of all the MERS cases resulted in death. Some patients died with severe complications such as renal failure.

In June 2012, a 60-year-old man in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia was the first victim infected with the virus.

Healthcare institutions continue to administer treatment that target symptoms, as well as airborne precautions such as placing patients in isolation rooms.

6. No treatment has been found for this disease.

Health care facilities only address current clinical conditions of patients with MERS as no vaccine or treatment yet has been developed against the infection. Hospitals are encouraged to apply supportive medical care to relieve symptoms of its patients and to prevent the spread of infection.

In South Korea, two hospitals will begin experimental plasma treatment on patients. It is a procedure using blood from those who have recovered from the disease.

Plasma treatment has been proven useful to treat other diseases. The WHO recommended this procedure as interim treatment for Ebola.

WHO continues to conduct investigations and informs member-states about current vital developments to help them effectively respond to the growing number of cases.

DOH is already in touch with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in making sure MERS and other emerging diseases are tracked. (READ: PH boosts MERS monitoring after UAE nurse scare)

7. MERS has been reported in at least 25 countries.

MERS cases have been found in at least 25 countries, including South Korea and the Philippines. But majority of the cases were found in Saudi Arabia.

These are the other countries where MERS cases were reported:

  • Middle East: Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen
  • Europe: Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom
  • Africa: Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt
  • Asia: China, Malaysia 
  • Americas: USA

(READ: MERS alert: 11 things OFWs should do)

– with reports from Vanessa Cabacungan, Jee Geronimo, and Shai Panela/Rappler.com

Sources: gov.ph, doh.gov.ph, poea.gov.phwho.int, cdc.govWHO: Clinical Management of patients suspected to be MERS-CoV positive, moh.gov.saThe New England Journal of Medicine

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