What is MERS?

What is M.E.R.S?

When the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) showed up in the United States recently, it got my attention. Don’t get me wrong, I am not usually reactionary or an alarmist, but I know these little viruses can be pretty dangerous. I also know we don’t have a lot in our medical arsenal to fight against the thing. So, when a virus makes the national news for being the first case, I pay attention. I was mildly comforted when I realized in was in Indiana, a few thousand miles away from my home. That comfort was shaken shortly after when another case showed up on Orlando, just a few hours from home. OK, now it has my attention.

Again, I usually watch these things get blown out of proportion on the news, and really don’t give it much thought. Maybe it was the unusually early and virulent flu season we just had or the recent EBOLA outbreak (that no one seems to be talking about). But, what I think really got my attention today, all healthcare workers who were exposed to the patient were placed in “home isolation”, however, two were being watched closely due to possible new onset of symptoms. Yup, you got my attention.

The latest outbreak that has plunged the world into a pandemic, COVID-19, has led to many thousands of cases of the disease around the globe and, unfortunately, deaths too. Washing your hands with soap and killing the bacteria that are living on your body has never been so vital to an individual’s health. There are other things you should be doing, including coughing into your elbow (not your hands) and social distancing. You should also not be seeing anyone from outside of your household, including people you are dating. For anyone unclear, here are the Dos and Don’t in COVID19 time for those in relationships. It has also sent businesses and industries into disarray thanks to social and movement restrictions imposed by governments of the world. Many businesses have closed and others have had to make drastic cuts. Any businesses that have been able to remain open have had to follow government guidance which has limited their freedom and will have certainly dented their profits. If you are a business owner whos business is currently still open or is looking to reopen soon, you might want to visit Versare to see the range of sneeze guards and the other health protection items available. Whilst keeping a business afloat is important, the health and safety of staff and the general public must come first. All the restrictions and guidance in place has led many companies to seek coronavirus small business assistance to help them through this difficult time, which will inevitably have a negative impact on many of their finances.

So, what is MERS?? Here’s what I could find out…

MERS is a coronovirus. Sound familiar? This is the same family of viruses that gave the SARS outbreak of 2003-2004. Usually coronovirus’ cause some upper respiratory infections, but usually not death. MERS was previously known as “novel coronavirus” and was first documented in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It was just got its name, MERS, last year, so it’s new and not well studied is what that means. According to the CDC, “they are still learning about it”. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), since May 3, 2014, there have been 489 reported cases with 126 deaths. That is about a 1 in 4 death rate. WHO report a 27% death rate. Most cases have been in Saudi Arabia. Also according to the WHO’s recent epidemiology investigation, they feel the upsurge in cases has been related to poor infection control practices in health care area. Sadly, one quarter of all the reported cases have been health care workers.

What are the symptoms?

  • Severe respiratory illness
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Remember, the key is recent travel to the Saudi Arabian peninsula.

Currently, the CDC and WHO are not placing any travel restriction to the area. They do however, recommend vigilance with hand washing and avoid close contact with individuals who are sick – as usual.

The CDC has also put out interim guidelines for health care providers – if you care for patients, especially in the ER and/or ICU, probably wouldn’t hurt to become aware of the guidelines and precautions. They can be found here –> CDC MERS Healthcare Provider Guidelines.

So, this is what I have found out. It appears to be pretty contained, but as we have seen recently, one airplane ride can change that quickly. Again, I don’t want to be an alarmist, but as a healthcare worker, I do want to be informed. I figured if I wanted to know, someone else might also. Hope it helps and appreciate your comments.

Be safe and WASH your hands!!

Comments (17)

  1. Reply

    This is great information that people need to hear about.
    People talk about these things but don’t know the underlying data, so I’m thankful that you’ve given stats here.

    Shared on my social networks. Keep up the great work 🙂

    • Joan RN


      Thanks for the visit & the comments! Really interesting stuff… and a little scary, especially for healthcare workers. Really need to stay informed. Thx!

  2. Reply

    There was another respiratory thing going on this year that came from the swine flu affecting younger people that had hospitals utilizing every respirator available. This one sounds very similar. I’m washing my hands a lot and hardly ever get sick but when I do it’s respiratory so I do pay attention to these things. Scary. Thanks for the info. Always good info to have on hand.

    • Joan RN


      Yes, this year was an exceptionally strong flu season. I think it caught everyone off guard as it came on very strong and very early. These little bugs can be scary! Keep washing your hands! Thanks for visiting!

  3. Reply

    Excellent resource for everyone to utilize. I am often in medical buildings and hospitals as I am a pharmaceutical sales rep. and try my best to touch anything. I rarely shake a physician’s hand either. I’m not a germaphobe, but I am concerned about not transmitting anything to my family.

    Thanks for your research and for the share.

    • Joan RN


      Not ment to freak you out, but always good to be informed! And never hurts to wash your hands. Thanks for visiting!

  4. Reply

    Thanks for the solid information! I travelled last week and wore a mask on the plane in an abundance of caution, primarily as a cancer patient in active treatment and secondarily due to concerns about MERS. It is hard to balance fear/anxiety with proactive caution/peace. Thanks for the excellent non alarmist information!

    • Joan RN


      You can never be too cautious, especially when traveling. Take care & thanks for the visit!

  5. Reply

    This is especially pertinent as my family from Saudi Arabia travels back and forth, as soon as next week! We do a lot of hand washing around here as it is with a house full of medical professionals but it’s nice to read a sound report of things like this instead of just media frenzy. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Pingback: What is Ebola - The Nurse Teacher

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.