What is MERS-CoronaVirus and How Can We Protect Ourselves Against It?

MERS-CoV or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus is currently on a heightening alarm across the country and in the Philippines. After one Filipino paramedic died in Al Ain last week, ten others remain in quarantine. A colleague of the victim, along with hundreds of passengers and cabin crew who traveled from Abu Dhabi to Manila on the same Etihad Airways flight last week were ordered to seek medical examinations and take utmost precautionary measures.

Coronaviruses comes from a family of viruses that cause illness to both human and animals. It can cause illnesses ranging in severity from the common colds to sever acute respiratory syndrome or SARS. MERS resembles SARS but further studies and examination are still underway. There are no definite cure or vaccination against it to date.  It is speculated that the disease came from camels, but everything is still understudy.

MERS was first detected in April 2012 and has since 60% death rate. Obvious symptoms are fever, coughing with phlegm, breathing difficulties and pneumonia. It may also cause kidney failures, diarrhea and other respiratory failures.

MERS-CoV is transmitted by direct contact with infected people, droplets from coughs and sneezes. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated, and then rubs it to the eyes, nose or mouth.

Here are some simple precautions, more of reminders actually, to prevent ourselves and our families from being infected:

1. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. Upon reaching home, go straight to the washroom to wash your hands and sanitize before touching or kissing our family, especially when you have a baby. Wash hands especially after you touch door knobs, bus and elevator buttons, trays and utensils from restaurants, items from store shelves, etc; most especially before meals.

2. Keep a hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol in the bag. If no water is available, these may do. If you're in a restaurant, ask for sanitary wipes before and after eating.

3. Refrain from handshakes and kisses. You can smile wave hi anyway ;-)

4. Avoid fitting 'used' garments. But if you really have to, ask the attendant to provide you a new one for fitting, or let them disinfect the garment first before you try.

5. Use tissues or hankies to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing. Distance yourself about 4-feet when sneezing or coughing and don't direct it towards people. Stand up from your desk when at work. Don't spread it yourself. If you see others doing it, remind them politely to cover up. Throw away properly your used tissues. Never ever cover your mouth with your hands.

6. Do not spit just anywhere.

7. Take a sick leave when you feel any of these symptoms already. It's more than just caring for your office mates. If you're a commuter, think also of the people you may encounter at the bus, at the metro, in the lifts, canteens, etc.

Since 2012 to date, there is a total of 228 confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV detected, including 92 deaths. But health organizations are still telling us, THERE'S NO REASON TO PANIC. It is not found to be contagious. Just be extra careful.

Again and again, prevention is better than cure. Always eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and have enough sleep. We need to boost our immune system.

Don't just be informed... be educated.

----- To concerned authorities, please make sure the camels in the desert parks are healthy.

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