Are you aware of MERS?
Are you going for Hajj this year? Then you should be careful. Please go through the following preventive measure which can protect you from being the fatal outcome.
MERS, stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus. The same family of virus causes common cold called MERS-CoV.
MERS-CoV was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Since then, it has been reported in other countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia and the United States. Most cases outside of the Middle East have been reported by people who recently traveled there.
MERS-CoV primarily causes simple viral infection or flu like illness producing symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Most people with this infection can get well within a week or two but some times people produce serious symptoms which may include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Pneumonia is common complication, and sometimes it may cause severe injury to organs, such as the kidneys. In severe cases people may presents with bleeding from different site which would be fatal and leading to death.
Treatment for MERS-CoV is directed at relieving symptoms and includes rest, plenty of fluids, pain relievers and oxygen therapy in severe cases.
About 30% of people with MERS-CoV have died. You are most at risk of serious illness if you are an older adult or if you have a weak immune system or a chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease.
Unlike influenza or the common cold, MERS-CoV does not seem to spread readily among people in communities. Instead, MERS-CoV has spread mostly among people who are in close contact, such as people living with or providing direct care for an infected person.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent MERS-CoV. However, as with any virus, you can reduce your risk of infection by using good health and hygiene practice. During Hajj, millions of people come to Mecca and Madina from all over the world. People during ritual performance like Tawaf, come in close contact with each other making vulnerable for cross infection.
These can be prevented to utmost extent if you follow the following instruction.
* Vigorously wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in the trash immediately, and then wash your hands carefully.
* Use disposable mask during Tawaf or when people gathering in Muzdalfa or Arafat.
* Avoid touching your face, mouth and nose with unwashed hands.
* Don't share cups, utensils or other items with sick people.
* Take plenty of water during Tawaf, in Arafat and Muzdalfa.
* Last but not the least during Hajj if you have cough, fever, runny nose, immediately consult a physician.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are closely monitoring the virus. They are currently not recommending changing your plans if you are traveling to the Middle East or other places where the virus has been reported.
If you have traveled to the Arabian Peninsula or a neighbouring country and you develop a fever and symptoms of MERS-CoV within 14 days of returning, see your doctor and discuss your recent travel.
May Allah protect all the pilgrims from MERS and they can safely back home after performing Hajj.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Z H Sikder Womens Medical College & Hospital, Dhaka.