The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV.
How it is transmitted?
MERS-CoV has been shown to spread between people who are in close contact. This virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person.
What are the symptoms?
Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
How many will die as a result of infection?
About 30% of people confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection have died. As you will see, the fatality rate of 30% is accurate, as it stands at 30.5% as of today.
Be Safe, Travel Safe
So far, all the cases have been linked to countries in the Arabian Peninsula. While there is no evidence of sustained spreading in community settings, it would be helpful to keep yourself informed about the incidences of MERS occurring, especially if you are going to travel to the middle-east region or near the region. Being a globalised economy and community, there is a real chance that someone infected would unknowingly travel to another region of the world which may cause another cluster of outbreak.
To reduce the risk of exposure to MERS-CoV, when travelling to affected areas, maintain vigilant and adopt the following health precautions when overseas:
- Observe good personal hygiene at all times;
- Practise frequent hand washing (e.g. before handling food or eating, after going to toilet, or when hands are soiled);
- Avoid close contact with persons suffering from acute respiratory infections (e.g. someone who is coughing);
- Avoid contact with camels and other live farm or wild animals, including not visiting camel farms. If contact has been made, thoroughly wash hands with soap.
- Adopt good food safety and hygiene practices and avoid consuming unpasteurised milk, undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables (unless they have been peeled), or unsafe water.
If you become unwell…
If you or your fellow traveller(s) should become unwell with fever and cough while travelling in or if they had recent travel history (within 2 weeks) to any areas reporting human cases of MERS-CoV, remember to wear a surgical mask and seek medical attention promptly. They should inform the doctor of the areas that they have travelled to.
There is now a MERS CoronaMap that provides a real-time view of the status and spread of the MERS virus throughout the world (see sample below). The Corona Map was launched on 2 May 2014, becoming the first site to track the MERS coronavirus in realtime on the world map. The data is officially reported by WHO or the Ministry of Health of the respective country. Be safe, take care of yourself and adopt good practices when travelling.