A new dangerous respiratory Infection in Our Region

Science Fields

The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a “Global Alert and Response” (GAR) warning on July 21, 2013, announcing the discovery of a new viral respiratory infection named Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronaviruses, abbreviated as MERS-Cov.

A new dangerous respiratory infection in our region: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus

First detected in Middle Eastern countries, mainly in Saudi Arabia,in April, the syndrome, reminiscent of a common cold with symptoms as shortness of breath, coughing and fever, but serious enough with a fatality rate of 50 percent,  the agent belongs to the “Coronavirus” family, generally responsible for various strains of cold. Despite the resemblance it bears to the coronavirus which caused the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic of 10 years before, several research centers have confirmed that it is a distinct and larger variety. Although initially camels were thought to be the source of the outbreak, there have been no reliable findings of symptoms among these animals. Later reports, in fact, switched the blame to bats endemic to the Saudi Kingdom.

Since the disease can spread from person to person through droplets, personal hygiene is important. Attesting to the seriousness of the threat, half of the mostly Saudi patients, (45 out of the 90 lab-confirmed cases) were lost. Although remaining short of being a pandemic threat so far, health officials are wary of the virus mutating and spreading to larger populations. The WHO has issued a warning to all its members, calling on them to closely monitor serious respiratory infections.

Our proximity to the Middle Eastern countries and annual Omra and Haj pilgrimages to Mecca make the provision of personal hygiene training to the pilgrims and immediate reporting of the suspect cases to medical officials, measures of paramount importance.  In this context, national media institutions, too, have a duty to act responsibly.

Turkish Association of Clinical Microbiology and Infective Diseases (KLIMIK) is continuously updating information concerning this area at its Web site (www.klimik.org.tr).