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Health guide: What is MERS and how to avoid the deadly disease in Singapore

By: Ezra Gideon


MERS has spread across the world, but you still have the power to prevent it! 

What is MERS?
Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or more commonly known as MERS, is a viral respiratory illness. It originated from the Middle East in Saudi Arabia three year ago and has spread globally since, mostly by tourists to the Middle East who caught the virus and brought it back home.

MERS affects the respiratory system (lungs and breathing tubes), causing patients to develop severe acute respiratory illness. This may lead to further complications like pneumonia and kidney failure. Statistics say 3 in 10 people die from MERS.


A common cold can lead to MERS if not properly treated. 

What are the symptoms of MERS?
The primary symptom of MERS is shortness of breath. Others include sneezing, coughing and subtle fevers from as low as 38 degrees.  Some patients even complain of gastrointestinal problems  like diarrhoea and nausea. These symptoms, no matter how minor, can lead to serious complications if not properly treated.

If you have been suffering from these symptoms for more than two weeks, skip your family doctor and head straight to the hospital. Studies have shown that many of those infected by MERS have had prior health issues. So if you have existing medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease or a weak immune system, be extra careful.

How does MERS spread?
MERS spreads from the infected to others via close contact, like coughing. Caregivers of MERS patients are extremely vulnerable.

Once infected, it will take up to six days (in some cases, up to two weeks) for the patient to show any symptoms.


Hygene can save lives! 

How can I prevent MERS?
Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine for MERS. To ensure your safety, practise these easy steps:

* Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser for 20 seconds

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands

* Cover your nose and mouth with tissue paper when you cough or sneeze, then throw it away into the trash

* Avoid personal contact with the sick, like kissing or sharing utensils

* Constantly disinfect frequently-touched surfaces and objects like doorknobs and household tools