1. Q. What is MERS?
A. MERS is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, an illness that affects the lungs and the respiratory tubes leading from our nose to the lungs. The disease was first found in the Middle East, hence the name, from where it occasionally spreads to other parts of the world. The countries in this geographical expression include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirate (Dubai etc), Oman, Yemen, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Iran, Gaza and The West Bank.
2. Q. What Causes MERS?
A. MERS infection is caused by a virus. It is said that the virus is found in bats which serve as the reservoir, bats are said to transfer the virus to camels (African and Australian Camels) which are regularly imported to the Middle East where the disease has apparently found a place.
3. Q. Can MERS Infection Spread?
A. The means of transmission is not quite clear but respiratory secretions and saliva are suspected as they contain the virus. Thus you can get the disease if you are sneezed on or coughed on by someone who as the virus. You could also get the infection if you drank the milk of a camel that has the disease or ate the camel meat. Handling materials contaminated by the respiratory secretions or saliva of an infected person can also help spread the infection through our hands reaching our nose/mouth.
4. Q. When Do You Suspect You May Have MERS?
A. Symptoms of MERS infection include fever, running nostrils, cough, and shortness of breath. You could suspect MERS infection if you have the above symptoms after a trip to the Middle East or any other country experiencing an epidemic. Incubation period is 5-6 days after exposure to the virus. See your doctor immediately and tell your travel history and various contacts during the trip
5. Q. What Can Put You at Risk of MERS?
A. Those at risk of contracting MERS infection include healthcare workers, travelers from the Middle East or any other country experiencing an epidemic of MERS. Close contacts of travelers from the Middle or any other country experiencing an epidemic of MERS East who are ill, Those who handle camel, Close contacts of persons with confirmed MERS infection and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
6. Q. What are the Possible Complications of MERS?
A. Complications of MERS infection include pneumonia and death..
7. Q. How can you prevent MERS infection?
A. There is no vaccine to prevent MERS infection but one can still do a lot to avoid it.
You can reduce your chance of contracting MERS infection by practicing personal and food hygiene.
a. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
b. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue into the dustbin.
c. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
d.Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, or sharing cups or eating utensils, with sick people.
e.Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.
f.Avoid contact with camel if possible
g.Do not drink camel milk
h.Do not eat camel meat that is not well cooked.
i.If a health worker, attend to suspected or confirmed cases fully protected with gown, facemask, gloves, goggles, boots and cap.