MERS: Key facts you should know

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(CNN Philippines) – What is MERS?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MERS is a viral respiratory disease that belongs to the coronavirus family, which causes a range of illnesses in humans and animals.

It is transmitted from human to human via bodily fluids, although research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) suggests people can be infected by coming in contact with animals.

In a news conference on February 13, acting DOH chief Janette Garin said the disease lives deep inside the lungs and can only be detected by testing mucus.

MERS can be fatal, with about three to four out of every 10 patients dying, according to a CDC report.

Who is most at risk?

  • persons with compromised immune systems
  • with preexisting medical conditions
  • those who have traveled from the Arabian Peninsula or who had close contact with travelers from the Arabian Peninsula who were ill and developed symptoms of the disease

It can affect anyone.

Where did it come from?

The source of the virus is currently unknown, although according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the "strain of coronavirus that causes MERS was first identified in September 2012 in Saudi Arabia."

Research also showed that the first recorded cases of MERS were in April 2012.

The NEJM in 2014 came out with a study that pinpoints camels as the "intermediate host" of MERS-CoV.

The same year, a Filipino health worker in the United Arab Emirates died of the virus. Two Filipino workers stationed in Jeddah also died to MERS-CoV in May 2014.

What are the symptoms?

Those infected with the disease show  flu-like symptoms including, fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

In some cases, the patient may also have diarrhea and nausea or vomiting.

The CDC says the incubation period for MERS-CoV – from exposure to the disease to when symptoms begin to show – is usually five or six days, but in some cases, it can range from two to 14 days.

What to do in suspected MERS cases

Dr. Lyndon Lee-Suy, head of the Emerging Infectious Disease Division of DOH, said there are five laboratories around the country that can handle cases of MERS-CoV, namely:

  • Lung Center of the Philippines, Quezon City
  • San Lazaro Hospital, Manila
  • Baguio General Hospital, Baguio City
  • Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Cebu City
  • Southern Philippines Medical Center, Davao City

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