Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS): Two Deaths Highlight the Severity of the Contagious Virus
TWO people have died after catching the highly contagious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), experts have warned.
The unnamed men, aged 42 and 85, were diagnosed with the disease in Saudi Arabia in November 2022 and March 2023, respectively, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
Local health officials said another man, aged 83, tested positive for the bug in Saudi, but survived.
MERS is a respiratory virus, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, and vomiting.
The deadly virus, which is usually passed on from infected animals like camels, kills about a third (35 per cent) of those infected.
Two men infected had been in contact with camels and all men consumed raw camel milk in the days before their symptoms began. And all three had underlying health conditions which could have made the disease worse.
MERS was first identified by scientists in Jordan in 2012, and has since resulted in over 2,617 infections and 947 deaths.
The majority of cases are reported in the Arabic world, but some have been discovered elsewhere – including one in the UK in 2018.
The bug is part of the coronavirus family that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
MERS is more deadly but less transmissible than its sister bug, Covid-19.
On August 29, the WHO predicted more cases or MERS to arise.
It said, “WHO expects that additional cases of MERS-CoV infection will be reported from the Middle East and/or other countries where MERS-CoV is circulating in dromedaries.”
The NHS suggests all travelers going to the Middle East regularly wash their hands with soap and water, especially after visiting farms, barns, or market areas.
Travelers should also avoid contact with camels, raw camel milk or products, and any food that may be contaminated with animal fluids.