July 25, 2023: A case of the (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) MERS-CoV) was reported in Abu Dhabi’s Al Ain last month. The virus is a severe respiratory infection caused by a coronavirus known as MERS-CoV. Here’s what you need to know about this viral disease:
How do you get infected?
MERS-CoV is a zoonotic virus that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Humans can get infected from direct or indirect contact with infected dromedary camels, though the exact transmission route is unclear. Human-to-human transmission is also possible, mainly among close contacts and in healthcare settings.
What are the symptoms?
MERS-CoV infections range from asymptomatic or mild respiratory symptoms to severe acute respiratory disease and death. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is frequently observed but not always present. Some patients may experience gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea. Severe cases may lead to respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation and support in an intensive care unit.
Who is at risk?
Older individuals, people with weakened immune systems, and those with chronic diseases like renal disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are at greater risk of developing severe illness if infected with MERS-CoV.
Available Treatment and Precautions
As of now, there is no specific treatment or vaccine for MERS-CoV. Supportive care is provided based on the patient’s clinical condition. People should practice general hygiene measures to prevent infection when visiting places where dromedary camels and other animals are present. This includes regular handwashing before and after touching animals and avoiding contact with sick animals.
The UAE’s Response
The Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC) has strengthened surveillance activities to identify possible cases of MERS-CoV and has conducted workshops to raise awareness about the disease.
Recent Case in Al Ain
The latest MERS-CoV case in Al Ain involved a 28-year-old expat who tested positive following a PCR done in June. Notably, this patient had no history of direct or indirect contact with dromedary camels, goats, or sheep. The World Health Organization (WHO) has initiated genomic analysis of the virus in this case to identify any genetic evolution.
Globally, since 2012, there have been 2,605 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, including 936 associated deaths.
In conclusion, MERS-CoV is a serious viral respiratory infection that can cause severe illness and even death, particularly in vulnerable individuals. To reduce the risk of disease, following general hygiene measures and avoiding contact with sick animals is essential. Health authorities worldwide continue to monitor and assess the situation, with efforts ongoing to develop specific vaccines and treatments for the virus.
[Reference: WHO, CDC, Nature, Cleveland Clinic]