MERS survival guide: All you need to know about the virus infecting the Middle East
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you will have seen the alarming headlines about Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the deadly infection caused by the MERS-CoV coronavirus that’s raging through the region. The number of cases reported in April blew past the last two years' total number of incidents - with a shocking death rate tracking at 36%! What the heck is happening here? Continue reading below »
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said its global count of MERS cases in April hit 217, compared with 207 reported since the disease first surfaced in Saudi Arabia (KSA) in 2012. Outbreaks had been limited to six Arab countries including KSA, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Jordan and Kuwait (cases in Europe and Malaysia were limited to patients who had travelled to the Middle East). New infections just emerged in Egypt and the USA - MERS is going global.
Saudi is the MERS epicenter, with 396 total reported cases, and 109 fatalities. The virus has raised such concern that Saudi Health Minister, Abdullah al Rabeeah, was recently sacked by King Abdullah for saying that he “had no idea why MERS was surging.” The head of Jeddah's King Fahd Hospital was also canned. The problem is spreading across the Arabian Peninsula, but Saudi insists the situation is “overblown”.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that MERS is a "threat to the entire world" and suggests that the virus could evolve to be as catchable as the common cold (with the power to kill more than a third of its victims!). But, despite the fact that there is no vaccine or treatment, WHO hasn’t advised special screening at international travel points nor recommended any trade restrictions or tried to implement preventative measures - they haven’t even recommended a travel ban to KSA for Ramadan and Hajj!
Remember the SARS virus that roared through Asia a decade back, infecting over 8,000 people - killing about 10% of those diagnosed with the disease? Is the best defense to sit back and watch as MERS becomes a pandemic, as was the case with the 1918 Swine Flu (A H1N1) outbreak that infected 500 million people across the world, killing off 3% of the world's population? MERS poses a serious threat to us all, particularly to those of us living in or near the Arabian peninsula. Information is power - arm yourself these MERS facts to help stay healthy.