MERS Virus – Time To Panic?

A deadly virus known as MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) has killed a man in Malaysia, while the Philippine health department has placed a migrant Filipino worker returning from the United Arab Emirates in quarantine after he tested positive for the respiratory illness.

Malaysia’s Health Minister S. Subramaniam said the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV), had killed a 54-year old man who had returned to Malaysia on March 29 after a pilgrimage to Mecca. This is the first recorded case of the virus in Malaysia.

The Philippines also saw its first recorded case of the virus, according to the health department.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona told reporters at a briefing Wednesday that the Filipino male diagnosed with the virus was a nurse who had come into contact with a Filipino paramedic who died in the UAE last week due to infection from the deadly strain of the coronavirus. Mr. Ona said the nurse and his relatives were placed in isolation after the nurse’s test in the UAE returned positive for the virus.

The virus is related to the SARS virus. Although it is deadlier, it’s mode of transmission is said to be less severe than SARS. There is no known cure and efforts to find a cure has apparently been hampered by patent issues.

So should we start to panic? Thousands of Malaysians and Singaporeans cross the border everyday, and hundreds more Singaporeans go to Saudi Arabia where 90 people have died so far from the virus, to perform the pilgrimage and Umrah on a weekly basis. Being a global city, it is inevitable that we will be exposed to the virus.

Although now is not the time to panic, perhaps the government should start educating the public on MERS and the action that we should take should it find its way to the republic.


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