MERS Symptoms: What You Need to Know About This Virus

The new SARS-like virus, a respiratory infection, has been found in 49 confirmed cases as of Thursday, with 27 of those patients dying. Clusters of the illness have been spotted in Britain, France, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia. World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margareth Chan has called the virus "a threat to the entire world" in that it is unlikely to remain isolated in Europe and the Middle East, although no cases have yet been reported in the United States.

Although the symptoms aren't quite clear yet, they appear to resemble those of a respiratory virus, generally characterized by a mild respiratory illness, similar to the flu. These include fever, an upper respiratory tract infection, and a cough. Hospitalization is recommended if there are signs of an infection in the lung. So far cases have consisted of a worsening of respiratory and eventually renal symptoms, sometimes requires mechanical ventilation.

Here are the 5 things you should know about the virus:

Widespread transmission hasn't been seen.

Cases are connected to the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia.

Underlying health conditions may make you more susceptible.

No travel warnings have been issued.

There are no treatments and no vaccine.

There are many things researchers still don't know about the new virus, called MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus). Although there is no vaccine, the journal Scientific Reports on March 27 wrote that progress has been made with an anti-viral drug to stop the infection from spreading. Further, researchers believe that, like SARS, MERS was transmitted to humans from a bat and can be transmitted through human-to-human contact. Scientists also don't know how long the virus hides in the body, but a study published March 14 in Eurosurveillance suggests that symptoms appear in approximately 10 days after infection.


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Maxime Fischer-Zernin

Studying Political Science at Duke University (T. '15). His interests lie primarily in American national security and foreign policy. He is currently an Editor-at-Large for the Duke Political Review, and is a contributor for PolicyMic.com.

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