Unravelling the truth: 20 facts you should know about MERS

Ingy Deif, Sunday 11 May 2014

Ahram Online lists what has been officially confirmed to date about MERS, based on information provided by the WHO, Egypt's Ministry of Health, and a panel of experts

MERS virus( Photo: Reuters )
MERS virus( Photo: Reuters )

1. First incidence: The first case of MERS was discovered in 2012. A Saudi man who owned four camels was the first infected.

2. Description: MERS is a strain of the corona virus — a deadlier cousin of SARS that emerged in 2002, killing 800 worldwide.

3. Hazard: MERS is associated with a high probability of kidney failure.

4. Symptoms: Look for all or some of the following: fever, cough, tight chest, vomiting, diarrhea, and pneumonia.

5. Infection rate: MERS virus is not as easily transmitted as SARS, but is deadlier.

6. Immunisation: No vaccine exists for MERS.

7. Death toll: To date, MERS has been reported in 12 countries. A third of all cases died.

8. Saudi Arabia: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has seen the lion's share of cases, with a total of 473, 133 of whom died (to 9 May).

9. Alarming increase: The rate of infection in Saudi Arabia doubled in April and further rose by 25 percent in May.

10. Dangers: Camels and bats are probable reservoirs of the deadly virus. Research is ongoing on this matter.

11. Travel to KSA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has not yet issued an advisory against travelling to Saudi Arabia.

12. Egypt's stance: The Egyptian Ministry of Health issued a warning against travelling to Saudi Arabia, especially for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, particularly in regards to the elderly, children under the age of 15, and those suffering from heart or respiratory diseases.

13. Myths: Using thermal detectors in airports is not an effective form of prevention as the incubation period of the virus reaches up to 14 days.

14. Camel products: The WHO has issued a warning against consuming raw camel products or the milk of camels.

15. KSA official statement: On Sunday, 11 May, and after an awkward silence regarding the matter, Saudi Arabia finally issued an advisory to citizens to wear gloves and masks when coming near camels, wash hands thoroughly afterwards, and boil camel milk and cook thoroughly camel meat before consumption.

16. Infected Egyptians: The only confirmed Egyptian MERS case was of a 27-year-old man who had been in contact with an MERS-infected uncle in Saudi Arabia. The uncle died and the young man, who comes from the Delta, is in a stable condition.

17. Port Said case: The death of a woman from Port Said, Egypt, initially suspected to be MERS was proven otherwise.

18. Protection: Precautions against contracting the virus include the basic rules of hygiene: not sharing culinary tools or toothbrushes,  avoiding close contact with visibly sick persons, washing hands frequently or using hand sanitisers, coughing and sneezing into a tissue and discarding it, and regularly cleaning and sterilising door knobs, remote controls, and other collectively used objects.

19. Treatment: Until now, no cure has been developed; treatment focuses on relieving symptoms.

20. Countries affected: MERS cases have been confirmed in: Saudi Arabia, the US, Egypt, Jordan, the UK, Malaysia, Tunisia, France, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, and Italy.

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