The MERS or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus has killed hundreds of people in the Arabian Peninsula. UN health officials have reported that there is a general lack of knowledge about the disease. A team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Organization for Animal Health visited Saudi Arabia last week to get a firsthand account of the situation.
MERS cases are on the rise. Saudi officials are still not sure about the origin of the infection or how they are spread. MERS was first discovered in 2012 and the UN has reported that there are critical gaps in knowledge about the virus and it is important to fill in these gaps to successfully tackle the MERS epidemic. The complete lifecycle of the virus is still not known. There have been some connections between MERS and camels. How the infection jumps from camels to humans is still not clear. Many of the patients suffering from MERS have reported that they have no contacts with camels.
Symptoms of the disease include coughing, fever, and respiratory problems which can manifest into more serious complications such as kidney failure and pneumonia.
There is still a lot unknown about MERS and its transmission into humans. What we know is that it is caused by a coronavirus, much akin to the pathogen which caused the SARS outbreak in China in 2003. There have been 376 deaths and over 1,026 confirmed cases of MERS since it was first discovered in 2012. Health officials are worried about the possibilities of the disease spreading to new areas but right now the focus will be to contain the virus within Saudi Arabia. Till date there is no cure or a vaccine for the virus but as scientists continue to study the virus, the situation can change in the future.