By: Elmer M. Palomata, MD - AVP for Provider Relations and Claims Administration
MERS CoV, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, is a viral illness primarily manifesting acute respiratory symptoms. It is not known yet for certain where the virus came from, but some studies have associated it with camels and bats, which may have been passed directly to humans. This virus, first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus which erupted in Asia in 2003.
Symptoms include fever, colds, cough, difficulty of breathing, and in some cases, diarrhea. It may also complicate to pneumonia, and kidney and respiratory failure in advanced cases.
If you recently traveled to countries in the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries and developed these symptoms within 14 days, you should see your healthcare provider and mention your recent travel.
The Department of Foreign Affairs does not recommend that anyone change their travel plans because of MERS CoV, more so prevent Overseas Filipino Workers from returning to the Philippines. Instead, it advises travelers from or transiting in high-risk areas, particularly those who have been in close contact with somebody suspected to be infected with MERS CoV, to follow standard precautionary measures. They should also practice self-quarantine if warranted, be aware of the symptoms, maintain proper hygiene and adopt other preventive measures.
1. Frequent proper hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
OBSERVE PROPER HANDWASHING
2. Cover your nose and mouth with tissue when sneezing and coughing because it is transmitted thru droplets; properly dispose tissues immediately.
3. The virus is also often spread when somebody touches something that is contaminated with germs and touches his eyes, nose or mouth. So avoid touching them especially with unwashed hands. Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, toys, handles), too.
4. It is contagious thru close contact. Avoid close interaction, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people.
5. It is aggravated if you are immunocompromised. Strengthen your immune system by sleeping 8 hours a day, hydrating well with at least 8 glasses of water a day (more if you are under the sun or depending on your health status or how active you are), and adopting healthy eating habits.
Experts are still struggling to understand MERS CoV, for which there is no known vaccine. There are no specific treatments recommended, but it is advised that people follow these tips to help prevent the illnesses.
The 24-hour assistance hotlines established by the Department Of Health for MERS CoV questions and concerns are: 711-1001; 711-1002; 0922-884-1564; 0920-949-8419; 0915-772-5621.