FAQ: The MERS Viral Respiratory Illness

You may have heard concern about a disease that has been identified on the Arabian Peninsula and has spread to several European countries. Related to SARS, but with a far worse mortality rate, MERS, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has infected 77 in eight countries with 42 deaths, or a mortality rate of 55%. SARS caused worldwide concern in 2003 with a mortality rate of 9.6%.

The reason PUR-O-ZONE monitors and occasionally discusses potential pandemics is because of the critical role housekeeping, janitorial and facility maintenance can now play in reducing the spread of such diseases. Even respiratory diseases can be affected by cleaning procedures. Cleaning for Health, instituted in the normal cleaning regimen of a facility, can result in important bottom-line improvements by reducing absenteeism, presenteeism (persons ill but at work), and lost opportunity. So whether it be a serious pandemic threat, a regional outbreak, daily battles with hospital-acquired infections or the seasonal influenza, your department can benefit from conversions to Cleaning for Health methodologies and new technologies.

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Here are some frequently asked questions and their answers from the CDC, Centers for Disease Control.

Q: What is MERS?

A: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness. MERS is caused by a coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV).

Q: What is MERS-CoV?

A: MERS-CoV is a beta coronavirus. It was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. MERS-CoV used to be called “novel coronavirus,” or “nCoV”. It is different from other coronaviruses that have been found in people before.

Q: How was the name selected?

A: The Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) decided in May 2013 to call the novel coronavirus “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV) Adobe PDF file [5 pages]External Web Site Icon.

Q: Is MERS-CoV the same as the SARS virus?

A: No. MERS-CoV is not the same coronavirus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. However, like the SARS virus, MERS-CoV is most similar to coronaviruses found in bats. CDC is still learning about MERS.

Q: What are the symptoms of MERS?

A: Most people who got infected with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half of them died. Some people were reported as having a mild respiratory illness.

Q: Does MERS-CoV spread from person to person?

A: MERS-CoV has been shown to spread between people who are in close contact. Transmission from infected patients to healthcare personnel has also been observed. Clusters of cases in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UK, France, Tunisia, and Italy are being investigated.

Q: Is CDC concerned?

A: Yes, CDC is concerned about MERS-CoV. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half of these people died. Also, the virus spreads from person to person and has spread between countries. CDC recognizes the potential for the virus to spread further and cause more cases and clusters globally, including in the United States.

Q: Has anyone in the United States gotten infected?

A: So far, there are no reports of anyone in the United States getting infected with MERS-CoV.