Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV, which is similar to the virus that caused the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003. MERS is a serious and potentially fatal disease that can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, respiratory distress, gastrointestinal symptoms, pneumonia, kidney failure, and septic shock.

Fever: A Common Symptom of MERS

Fever is one of the most common symptoms of MERS. It is usually accompanied by other flu-like symptoms such as cough, sore throat, and body aches. The fever can range from mild to high, and it may last for several days. It is important to monitor your body temperature and seek medical attention if your fever persists or worsens.

Cough and Shortness of Breath: Respiratory Symptoms of MERS

Cough and shortness of breath are respiratory symptoms that can occur in individuals with MERS. The cough may be dry or productive, and it can be accompanied by chest pain. Shortness of breath may range from mild to severe, and it may worsen over time. If you experience persistent cough or difficulty breathing, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional.

Respiratory Distress: A Severe Complication of MERS

In severe cases of MERS, individuals may develop respiratory distress, which is characterized by rapid breathing, low oxygen levels, and the inability to breathe adequately. This condition requires immediate medical attention and may necessitate hospitalization and respiratory support.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms: An Uncommon Manifestation of MERS

Although respiratory symptoms are the hallmark of MERS, some individuals may also experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms are less common but can occur in certain cases. It is important to stay hydrated and seek medical advice if you experience persistent gastrointestinal symptoms.

Pneumonia: A Serious Complication of MERS

MERS can progress to pneumonia, which is an infection that causes inflammation in the lungs. Pneumonia can lead to severe respiratory symptoms, such as cough with phlegm, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Prompt medical intervention is crucial to manage and treat pneumonia associated with MERS.

Kidney Failure: A Potential Consequence of MERS

In some cases, MERS can lead to kidney failure, a condition in which the kidneys are unable to filter waste products from the blood effectively. This can result in fluid retention, electrolyte imbalances, and other complications. Individuals with MERS should be closely monitored for kidney function and receive appropriate medical care if kidney failure occurs.

Septic Shock: A Life-Threatening Complication of MERS

Septic shock is a severe and life-threatening condition that can occur in individuals with MERS. It is characterized by low blood pressure, organ dysfunction, and a high risk of mortality. Immediate medical attention is essential to manage septic shock and provide supportive care.

Treatment and Prevention of MERS

Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for MERS. Supportive care is the mainstay of treatment, which includes managing symptoms, providing respiratory support if necessary, and addressing complications such as pneumonia and kidney failure. Prevention of MERS involves practicing good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing, avoiding close contact with individuals who have respiratory symptoms, and following respiratory etiquette (covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing).

Tips to Prevent MERS:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid close contact with individuals who have respiratory symptoms.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.
  • Wear a mask if you are in close proximity to someone with respiratory symptoms.

It is important to stay informed about the latest updates on MERS from reputable sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and local health authorities. By following preventive measures and seeking prompt medical attention if symptoms arise, we can collectively work towards reducing the impact of MERS and protecting public health.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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