As everybody knows, that these days Saudi Arabia is reeling under threat of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), there is compelling need for Haji Sahiban to know what MERS is?

 MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is a viral disease caused by Coronavirus, i.e. why it is also abbreviated as MERS-COV. The first case report of MERS-COV in Saudi Arabia was detected in 2012. In May 2014, MERS-COV cases have been reported in several other countries including Malaysia, Jordan, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia, UK and USA. Till July 2014, a total of 700 cases of MERS have seen diagnosed in 20 countries of the world with 250 deaths attributed to this illness.

Modes of Spread

(i)  Since the origin of the virus is unknown, it is believed that this virus possibly gets transmitted from camels (who have been seen herboring this virus in their upper respiratory tracts). Therefore camels are potential sources of this infection. So close contact with camels, drinking unboiled camel milk, under cooked camel meat, contact with camel excreta should be strictly avoided. Saudi government has advised people to avoid contact with camels and wear breathing masks while around them.

(ii) Patients infected with MERS are also source of infection. The transmission of virus can occur from contact with MERS COV infected patients either at house hold level or inside hospitals.

 Risks of Infection

             There is high risk of infection among those people who are in close contact with the patients. Congested places with people overcrowding are predisposing factors for spread of the infection.


The following are the symptoms of MERS.

  1. Asymptomatic i.e. there will be no symptoms.
  2. Fever, cough and shortness of the breath are most frequent.
  3. Some patients may have associated abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.
  4. Rarely patients can get kidney involvement and generalized bleeding spots of skin




            Treatment of symptomatic MERS should be carried in hospital setting. For this purpose, any patient suspected of such illness should be immediately referred from India Mission Hospital to specialized hospitals which have already been identified by Saudi authorities for such purposes.


            This is the most important:     A recent travel advisory from World Health Organization (WHO) on MERS-COV is as follows:

(a)  Visitors to Saudi Arabia with pre-existing major medical condition (e.g. chronic diseases like diabetes, lung diseases, kidney diseases) are at increased risk of MERS, therefore they  should consult their doctor before travel.

(b)  Hands should be washed with soap and water before eating.

(c)   Under cooked meat or food or food prepared under unsanitary conditions should be avoided.

(d)   Fruits and vegetables should be properly washed before eating.

(e)   Avoid contact with domestic and farm animals.

(f)    Mouth and nose should be covered with tissue while coughing or sneezing.   

The guidelines issued by the Ministry of External Affairs through Haj Committee of India for this purpose include:

  1. Use tissue paper / handkerchief while coughing or sneezing. These should be disposed in properly covered dustbins.
  2. Avoid contact with eyes, nose and mouth by hands as much as possible.
  3. Avoid direct contact with people suffering from fever with respiratory symptoms such as cold and cough and avoid sharing their personal effects.
  4. Wear face masks at congested places.
  5. Maintain personal cleanliness.



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