MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has now spread to US. Here are five things to know including its origin, history, symptoms and treatment.  (Photo: Reuters)
MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has now spread to US. Here are five things to know including its origin, history, symptoms and treatment. (Photo: Reuters)Reuters

MERS-CoV, the short form for 'Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus' first surfaced in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

As of now, 262 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV cases have been reported in several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, the Philippines and now, the United States as reported on Friday.

The first case in the USA of MERS-COv was reported in Indiana.

Here are five important things to know about MERS:

Same Family as SARS

MERS is in the same family of viruses as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus) and the common cold. But MERS does not spread easily between humans unlike SARS that killed 773 people worldwide and infected 8,000 in 2003.

The symptoms of the virus include cold and attack on the respiratory system. Fever and cough could be severe and can even lead to pneumonia and kidney failure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

Main Symptoms

  • Almost all confirmed cases have serious respiratory illness, especially pneumonia
  • Fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties are common.
  • A small number of cases have had mild influenza-like symptoms
  • In some cases, varieties of symptoms have been reported such as muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea.

How is MERS spread?

Scientists and doctors currently are not aware where people caught the disease from or how exactly it is spread, although scientists are sure there the virus does not tend to spread from person to person in the same family group, co-workers and in hospital environments. It is said that the virus is likely to have originated in bats, but it can't be confirmed if it spread directly from bats to people.

"The virus has not shown to spread in a sustained way in communities. The situation is still evolving," The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said in its website.

Camels Linked to MERS?

In a study released in Mbio, scientists found MERS-CoV genome sequences from nasal swabs of camels sampled in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The genetic analysis found numerous substrains in the camel viruses, including one that perfectly matched a substrain isolated from a human patient.

CNN notes that the attention on camels isn't new as the same group, earlier in February published a finding that nearly three-quarters of camels in Saudi Arabia tested positive for past exposure to MERS.

No Treatment

As of now, there is no specific treatment for people who are sick with MERS-CoV, but general supportive medical care can be life-saving. Also there is no vaccine to prevent the disease.

People who are living in or travelling to affected areas of the Middle East or who have contact with other cases may be at risk of being infected by the virus, Australian Government's Department of Health has said in its website