How to Avoid MERS

Three Methods:Taking PrecautionsSafely Caring For An Infected PersonRecognizing Symptoms and Knowing When to Seek Medical Help

MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. It is a viral respiratory illness most prevalent in Middle Eastern countries. Symptoms include a fever, a cough, other respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, and occasionally diarrhea. In order to avoid contracting MERS, it is important to travel safely and to practice excellent hygiene, both for yourself and for anyone else who is with you.

Method 1
Taking Precautions

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    Be careful travelling to areas where MERS is prevalent.[1] Countries that have had higher rates of MERS include Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran. If you live in one of these areas, you will inherently be at higher risk; however, if you live elsewhere and can avoid travelling to these places, you will diminish your risk and hopefully avoid contracting MERS.
    • Cases have also been reported in the following countries (in people who traveled to high risk areas in the Middle East): Algeria, Austria, Thailand, South Korea, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Hong Kong, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
    • If you are in a high-risk area in the Middle East, avoid contact with camels as they may also transmit the disease (transmission from camels to humans is possible).[2] This includes avoiding eating camel meat, or consuming camel urine (which is considered a medicinal practice in certain areas of the world).
    • There are currently no travel restrictions to Middle Eastern countries where MERS is more prevalent. However, if you do travel there, practicing good hygiene and reporting any possible symptoms of MERS to a physician is important.
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    Wash your hands regularly.[3] As with any respiratory infection, one of the best ways to prevent catching it is to wash your hands regularly. Our hands are one of the primary ways in which germs are transmitted, due to the number of surfaces we are touching each and every day, some of which may be contaminated with infectious particles. By washing your hands regularly, and especially before eating, you minimize your chance of catching MERS.
    • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20-30 seconds. Be sure to scrub the full surface area of your hand, including between your fingers.
    • If warm water and soap are not readily available for you during the day, another option is to carry an alcohol-based sanitizer in your pocket or in your purse.
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    Refrain from touching your face.[4] One of the fastest way to pick up a bug and catch a virus (such as MERS) is to touch your hands to your face - including your eyes, your nose, and/or your mouth. Your hands have likely touched many public surfaces, some of which may have had germs on them, and putting your hands to your face then transfers the germs and increases your chances of catching the infection.

Method 2
Safely Caring For An Infected Person

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    Avoid close personal contact.[5] If you are caring for a loved one with MERS, it is key to avoid cuddling, kissing, and/or sharing cups and utensils. MERS is transmitted via respiratory secretions, so being in close contact with someone puts you at high risk for contracting the virus.
    • Refraining from close personal contact until your loved one recovers is your best bet, if you want to avoid becoming infected yourself.
    • It is advisable to sleep in separate beds until the affected person recovers.
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    Clean common areas of the house.[6] If you are living under the same roof as someone with MERS, it is best to take hygiene precautions and to clean any shared areas of the house that may serve as a means for germ transmission. Be sure to clean surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, dishes and cooking items, towels and other bathroom surfaces. If the house is big enough, dedicating a separate bathroom and separate towels and bedsheets to the infected person is ideal. Minimize shared items if possible until the infected person recovers.
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    Ask the infected person to cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze.[7] Since MERS is spread via respiratory secretions, asking the infected person to cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze traps most of the infectious particles and prevents them from spreading through the air to others who may be around. This will certainly help you (and anyone else in the house) to avoid catching MERS.

Method 3
Recognizing Symptoms and Knowing When to Seek Medical Help

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    See a physician if you notice signs or symptoms suspicious of MERS.[8] If you have recently been in an area where the MERS virus is prevalent (one of the Middle Eastern countries listed above), or if you have been in close contact caring for an affected individual, you will want to monitor yourself for any signs or symptoms that may be suspicious of MERS. These include flu-like symptoms such as a cough, a fever, respiratory issues such as shortness of breath, and sometimes diarrhea.[9]
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    Take extra caution if you have other medical conditions. It is especially important to see your doctor if you have symptoms suspicious of MERS alongside other chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, or ongoing respiratory disease. This is because your risk of contracting MERS is higher when you have these conditions.
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    Call your doctor ahead of time to let him or her know that you are worried you may have MERS. This way, your doctor can arrange to see you separately from other patients so that you do not risk passing the infection on to others. MERS is an infection that is being tracked by public health so, if you are diagnosed with it, it needs to be reported.

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Categories: Respiratory Health