Written by Sophie Okolo
Three elderly residents have died of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in Saudi Arabia. The outbreak, which has affected mostly Middle Eastern nations, was first documented in 2012. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, the National IHR Focal Point for Saudi Arabia reported 17 additional cases of MERS-CoV infection as well as three deaths between Aug. 3 and 9 in Riyadh.
Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory disease caused by the MERS-coronavirus (MERS‐CoV). Transmission within humans is through close contact with an infected person and symptoms can range from mild to severe including fever, cough, diarrhea, and shortness of breath. Like other medical conditions, MERS symptoms are usually more serious in individuals with many health problems such as the elderly. The three persons who died of the infection were in their 70’s with unrelated medical conditions.
Older adults are particularly prone to preventable risk factors including high blood pressure and high blood sugar that can complicate the virus as well as increase the chances of causing chronic conditions. As of 2015, the global risk of MERS-CoV is quite low and no specific vaccine or treatment is available.
Governments should continue to increase prevention efforts such as avoiding contact with sick camels, cooking camel products thoroughly and washing hands regularly before and after touching camels. All Member States are also to “continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns,” according to WHO. There have been reported cases in continents such as Africa, Europe, and North America. As the MERS outbreak continues to affect the Arabian Peninsula, other nations should take extra precautions in preventing the infection.
Have you heard of the MERS outbreak?