MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is a severe pneumonia-like respiratory disease caused by a virus. It is different from SARS because MERS is caused by another subtype of the virus.
Pneumonia is a general term for an inflammation of the air sacs of the lungs caused by an infection or chemical. With pneumonia, the lungs fill with fluid, which interferes with their ability to transfer oxygen to the blood. MERS is known as an atypical pneumonia because it is not caused by the usual bacteria or viruses.
MERS causes high fever, cough, and severe shortness of breath. The infection is thought to be spread by close contact with an infected person.
Causes of MERS
A virus called coronavirus is the cause of MERS. There are many kinds of coronavirus, some of which cause the common cold. The MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was a new variant that was discovered in 2012 in the Middle East region.
How MERS spreads is not completely understood, but experts believe that the main way it spreads is through close contact with an infected person (by caring for or living with the person, or having direct contact with their respiratory secretions and body fluids). The people who have been infected by MERS have all been in a health care facility or among close family members.
MERS is different from SARS. Most importantly, the MERS virus does not appear to be as easily spread between people, whereas the SARS virus spreads very easily.
Symptoms and Complications of MERS
The main symptoms of MERS are:
- cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
- high fever (over 38°C or 100.4°F)
Some people also develop kidney failure.
People with existing medical conditions (e.g., heart problems, diabetes) are more likely to be affected more seriously with the infection. Many of the fatal MERS infections have been in patients who had a history of other medical conditions.