Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

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DOI: 10.21522/TIJPH.2013.04.04.Art033

Authors : Geethamma Jolly


Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a highly lethal respiratory disease caused by a novel single-stranded, positive-sense RNA beta coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Dromedary camels, hosts for MERS-CoV, are implicated in direct or indirect transmission to human beings, although the exact mode of transmission is unknown. The virus was first isolated from a patient who died from a severe respiratory illness in June, 2012, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. As of May 31, 2015, 1180 laboratory-confirmed cases (483 deaths; 40% mortality) have been reported to WHO. MERS-CoV causes severe human infections resulting in high mortality and has demonstrated the ability to transmit between humans. So far, the observed human-to-human transmission has occurred mainly in health care settings. WHO expects that additional cases of MERS-CoV infection will be reported from the Middle East, and that cases will continue to be exported to other countries by individuals who might acquire the infection after exposure to animals or animal products (for example, following contact with dromedaries) or human source (for example, in a health care setting). Both community-acquired and hospital-acquired cases have been reported with little human-to-human transmission reported in the community. Although most cases of MERS have occurred in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, cases have been reported in Europe, the USA, and Asia in people who travelled from the Middle East or their contacts. Clinical features of MERS range from asymptomatic or mild disease to acute respiratory distress syndrome and multiorgan failure resulting in death, especially in individuals with underlying comorbidities. No specific drug treatment exists for MERS and infection prevention and control measures are crucial to prevent spread in health-care facilities. MERS-CoV continues to be an endemic, low-level public health threat. However, the virus could mutate to have increased interhuman transmissibility, increasing its pandemic potential.


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