In September 2012, a virus resembling Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was discovered in Jeddah Saudi Arabia. It was initially named as novel coronavirus (nCoV), but now officially called as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Like SARS, patients diagnosed with MERS-CoV showed acute, serious respiratory illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. Most MERS-CoV confirmed patients have had pneumonia and gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea.
Though symptoms were based only on mere confirmed cases, several studies are now being done in Saudi Arabia and other affected areas to analyze the disease. At present, there is no concrete evidence on how people become infected with the virus. Investigations are underway to determine its source, types of exposure that lead to infection, mode of transmission, clinical patterns and the course of the disease.
Initial studies have confirmed human-to-human transmission which occurred either in a health care facility or among close family members. However, the transmission mechanism in all of these cases, whether respiratory (e.g. coughing, sneezing) or contact (contamination of the environment by the patient), is still unknown.
Since its discovery in September 2012 to April 26 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 261 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection including 93 deaths.
Impacts to the Filipinos
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East and nearby countries have higher risks of contracting the virus due to exposure to the MERS-CoV infected areas. At the moment, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have issued a MERS-CoV advisory for Filipino communities in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the DOH continuously conducts information drive for the public especially for OFWs and international travellers arriving the Philippines. To avoid getting infected with the virus, the DOH is encouraging everyone to be vigilant and conscious on personal health and hygiene.
Based on the current situation and available information, the WHO encourages all Member States to continue in the surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.
The WHO also reiterated that infection prevention and control measures are critical to stop the possible spread of MERS-CoV in health care facilities. Health-care facilities providing services to patients suspected or confirmed to be infected with MERS-CoV should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission. It is also important that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices all the time.
- DOH Advisory to travellers - http://www.gov.ph/2014/04/22/advisory-doh-health-alert-notice-for-international-travelers-arriving-in-ph/
- DOH infographic - http://www.gov.ph/2014/04/22/infographic-paalala-ukol-sa-mers-cov/
- DFA-DOH advisory to Filipino communities in Middle East - http://www.gov.ph/2014/04/23/poea-issues-precaution-on-mers-cov-for-newly-hired-and-returning-ofws/