Recent reporting of people infected with the MERS virus in Qatar have sparked public fear of an epidemic, but few actually know what it is.
Recently, the Ministry of Public Health announced that a 25-year-old man was diagnosed with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, also known as the MERS virus, marking the second case the Qatar has witnessed this year.
Qatar plays actually a leading role in the known history of the MERS virus, since the second ever reporting of person being infected happened here.
The MERS virus was actually known as the Saudi SARS for a while, because the ever confirmed case was in Saudi Arabia. In 2012, Egyptian virologist Dr. Ali Mohamed Zaki isolated and identified an unknown coronavirus from a man’s lungs.
The virus then appeared again in a 49-year-old man living in Qatar, who shared same flu-like symptoms as the first man, with sequencing proving that the two viruses were nearly identical. After that, several cases around the world starting showing on the radar and fear of a widespread pandemic lead to quick research on the virus, its origins, and how to stop it.
As of July 2015, incidents where people had been infected with the virus had been reported in over 21 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Turkey, Oman, Algeria, Bangladesh, Austria, the United Kingdom, South Korea, the United States, China, Thailand, and the Philippines.
These cases are however not limited to humans, but have been also found in camels, leading experts to believe that camels might be a primary source of infection for humans. More than 1,600 cases of MERS were reported that year, more than 30 percent of which ended in death.
The main symptoms of MERS are cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, diarrhea and fever over 38°C. Some patients even developed kidney failure. However, and luckily, unlike SARS, another feared coronovirus, doesn’t spread from human to human very easily. But human to human transmission remains the leading believed cause of infection
Scientist haven’t been able to develop a vaccine for MERS yet, and there are no treatments known to cure infections. However, doctors can help relieve symptoms with medical care similar to those given to patients with other types of conorovirus infections.