Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is an often-deadly respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus. It is sometimes called the camel flu because it is believed camels can spread it to humans. However, most individuals become infected with MERS while in the hospital. Though some patients who contract the disease have few or no symptoms, others can become severely ill. Over a third of those infected end up dying from the disease. The risk of severe illness is increased for patients who have preexisting health conditions. Get to know the warning signs of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome now.
Even though MERS has a deadly reputation, it is often asymptomatic. Some individuals who are exposed to the virus have little to no reaction to it. At worst, they may have a few symptoms characteristic of a common cold, and they recover quickly. Individuals may not even be aware they had MERS. Due to some patient's lack of symptoms, cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome may be underreported. This leads to potentially inaccurate statistics on the disease. For example, it has been reported over thirty percent of individuals who become infected with MERS die. However, this statistic is based only on the cases that have been reported and verified. The fatality rate of the illness might be significantly lower if all of the unreported cases were accounted for.
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According to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), fever is one of the primary symptoms of MERS. This symptom often appears first, and patients sometimes assume they have the flu. High body temperature alone is not enough to suggest Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is the culprit. However, if someone experiences a fever after traveling to the Middle East (and especially after visiting a hospital in the Middle East or having contact with camels), they should carefully monitor the development of further symptoms. If the high temperature is accompanied by respiratory distress, MERS should be considered as a potential cause. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome can be quickly confirmed by taking a blood or sputum sample and testing it for the presence of antibodies against the coronavirus.
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Since MERS is a respiratory illness, coughing is a major symptom, along with shortness of breath. This happens because the virus directly attacks the lungs. The severity of the coughing varies from person to person. It may be as mild as a common cold; on the other hand, some patients experience severe fluid buildup in the lungs that develops into pneumonia or adult respiratory distress syndrome. The latter, also known as ARDS, involves a severe lack of oxygen in the blood. Both pneumonia and ARDS are deadly complications that contribute to the high fatality rate of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The risk is augmented in individuals who have preexisting lung problems.
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One potential outcome of MERS is kidney failure. This is often the cause of death in severe cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Patients who get to this advanced disease stage usually have other medical issues that cause complications. Things like lung diseases, heart problems, and diabetes are thought to contribute to an increased risk of severe complications. These conditions may even increase an individual's risk of contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the first place. This does not mean healthy individuals are immune to the virus or that they will not develop kidney failure from it. However, their risk is thought to be significantly lower.
Continue for more on warning signs of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
Nausea And Vomiting
Though MERS is primarily a respiratory illness, it can present with gastrointestinal symptoms for some individuals. These symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Research suggests individuals with autoimmune diseases or weak immune systems may be more likely to experience gastrointestinal symptoms. Oddly, patients with these underlying conditions may not experience the typical respiratory symptoms associated with MERS. It is unclear precisely why this is the case, but it emphasizes the importance of clinicians knowing a patient's background when considering diagnoses. It also highlights how little researchers know about MERS at this time. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and its associated coronavirus are still very new medical discoveries.