Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a respiratory illness caused by the MERS-CoV virus. The respiratory tract includes the nose, sinuses, and lungs, as well as many other important structures the body uses to breathe. The first case of MERS was seen in Saudi Arabia, and there have been many reported cases in the countries within and nearby the Arabian Peninsula.
Symptoms of MERS may include fever, chills, cough, trouble breathing, body aches, diarrhea, vomiting, and an upset stomach. Though uncommon, there have been some cases where individuals who are infected with the virus display only very mild or no symptoms. Severe complications may include a rapid deterioration of respiratory function (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and pneumonia. Higher risk individuals that are more likely to become infected include older individuals, those who tend to get sick frequently, pregnant women, children, and those with other long-term diseases such as cancer or diabetes.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) believes the virus originated from an animal source, most likely from camels. Additionally, scientists believe the disease is spread person to person through close contact. However, since many qualities of the virus are not known at this time, further research needs to be completed to fully understand the origin and transmission of the virus.
Ways to prevent becoming infected by the MERS virus include thorough and frequent washing of the hands; avoid touching of the eyes, nose, and mouth; and to avoid contact with individuals who may have been infected or are displaying symptoms. If you or a family member has had possible exposure to the virus and are experiencing symptoms, contact a medical professional as soon as possible to talk about the most current treatment options.