There’s another deadly virus looming around, and this time the Middle East is prey. MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, is a beta coronavirus which was first reported 2 years ago in Saudi Arabia. The MERS virus has been causing unease because of the rising death tolls in Saudi Arabia. In effect, neighboring countries, as well as those far off, are concerned that the virus might enter their country and cause an epidemic – a reasonable cause of concern because there is no vaccine yet. Infected persons are only treated with medicine for fever while their stats are carefully being monitored – obviously the risk MERS brings is too heavy to be treated lightly.
However, is the MERS worth all the commotion it’s causing here in the Philippines? In this article, we will look at 4 facts about the MERS virus to try and put it into perspective.
Just like SARS, the MERS virus also affects the respiratory system. The symptoms displayed by infected persons are also similar to SARS: they experience fever, cough and shortness of breath. What makes the virus lethal is its ability to lead to pneumonia and even rapid kidney failure.
The MERS virus has been shown to spread between people who’ve had close contact between infected persons. Caregivers must be extra cautious because most health care workers tending infected patients are very susceptible to the virus as well. To avoid the spread of the virus, everybody is encouraged to practice general hygiene: wash your hands often, disinfect regularly touched surfaces, and of course do not share utensils with those tested positive of the virus.
In Saudi Arabia, recent statistics say that out of 414 confirmed cases of MERS, 115 has resulted in death. Because of the virus’ contagiousness (patient to health care workers), outbreaks surged within hospitals in Jeddah and Riyadh. The Muslim community is particularly concerned of this because of the upcoming fasting month of Ramadan in July. If the virus is not contained within that time, an epidemic is not a far-fetched possibility.
As of the moment, there is no vaccine. But CDC is discussing with their partner pharmaceutical companies of the possibility of developing one.
The Philippines is only right to be concerned with MERS because there is a large community of Filipino OFWs in Saudi Arabia. And indeed, we have lost 3 fellow Filipinos to the virus. Recent reports also say that 6 Filipinos coming home from the Middle East were initially diagnosed positive of MERS. However, as of May 10, all 6 have been released from the hospital as they were declared negative after the 2nd test.
MERS has not infiltrated the Philippines. Due to strict health protocols in our airports, the disease is effectively being blocked. However, DOH continues to urge us to be vigilant because news is out that MERS has been detected in the Florida, US.
Yes, MERS is something we should be vigilant about. But there is still no cause for paranoia here in the Philippines. So don’t come running for the hills whenever you hear someone coughing. However, to reduce the risk of an epidemic, it is encouraged to halt vacations to the Middle East. At least until scientists develop an effective combatant against the virus.