Going to the Middle East? 5 Facts About the New MERS Virus You Need to Know

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By Sachin Trivedi | April 29, 2014 2:47 PM EST

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus or MERS virus is a deadly virus which has reportedly caused the deaths of many. Recently there has been a spike in the reported cases in Saudi Arabia and Egypt has reported its first case, raising concerns about the spreading of the virus to other countries.

Reuters
Saudi Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabia gestures during a news conference in Riyadh, April 20, 2014. Saudi Arabia confirmed 20 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on Saturday and Sunday, adding up to 49 infections in six days, a sudden increase of a disease that kills about a third of the people infected and has no cure. However, al-Rabia on Sunday told reporters there was no scientific evidence yet to justify ordering additional preventative measures such as travel restrictions. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

There is no travel advisory for people who wish to travel to the Middle East but travelers have been cautioned to practice normal hygiene measures like washing hands often or using hand sanitizers. Here is a look at 5 facts about the virus readers should know.

Fact #1: There is no vaccine or specific cure for the virus

The MERS virus was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and a vaccine for the virus has still not been developed. There is also no specific cure for the virus but timely general medication may be able to save the life of the patient.

Fact #2: Symptoms of the MERS virus

The symptoms of the MERS virus include mild to acute respiratory illness, fever, cough and shortness of breath. The Department of Health - Australia, advices people who fall sick in the Middle East to immediately seek medical attention and not wait till they get back to Australia.

Fact #3: Countries Affected

The countries in the Middle East where instances of the MERS virus were reported include Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. The European countries where cases of the virus have been reported include Italy, United Kingdom, France, Tunisia and Germany.

So far no case of the MERS has been reported in Australia and the U.S. Both countries are taking preventive measures which include following up on suspected cases and offering testing kits to accurately diagnose the virus.

Fact #4: How it spreads

The MERS virus may spread by coming in close contact with people who have the virus. It is still unclear if the source of the virus is a particular animal and if animals can be spreading the virus.

Fact #5: What preventive steps can be taken

The preventive steps that can be taken include washing hands with soap often, cover the nose and mouth with tissue while coughing and sneezing and throw the tissue in the nearest trash can, avoid close contact with sick people, avoid sharing cups and utensils with sick people.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Saudi Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabia gestures during a news conference in Riyadh, April 20, 2014. Saudi Arabia confirmed 20 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on Saturday and Sunday, adding up to 49 infections in six days, a sudden increase of a disease that kills about a third of the people infected and has no cure. However, al-Rabia on Sunday told reporters there was no scientific evidence yet to justify ordering additional preventative measures such as travel restrictions. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
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