If you thought the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS as it is commonly known, was scary, get prepared for an even more virulent virus that has all the making of a Hollywood horror movie, the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which has already claimed 33 lives across the world.
The state health department has alerted it's officials in the city and districts to keep a watch on flu patients with symptoms of MERS-Coronavirus or MERS-CoV, the newest viral threat that has the potential of becoming a pandemic across the country.
The first MERS-CoV case was reported in West Asia. The symptoms? Lung infection, with fever, cough and cold and breathing trouble. It also leads to kidney failure.The virus is a member of the CoV family that includes pathogen-causing SARS.
A virology expert associated with the School of Tropical Medicine (STM) said MERSCoV had already affected 58 patients in Saudi Arabia, the UK, US, Germany and other countries and killed 33 of them. Its mortality rate is above 60 % and it poses a much graver threat than SARS, which created a global panic when it killed 800 people in early-2003.
“WHO has already sounded a countrywide alert on the newest viral infection, MERS-CoV. On the eve of Haj, we’ve also alerted all our health officials in districts and Kolkata to keep a watch on MERS-CoV suspects. There’s no vaccine yet. We’re concerned over several thousand Haj pilgrims, since the epicentre of the viral infection is in West Asia,” BR Satpathi, director of health services said.
“There’s no such case in our state yet. We’ll send blood samples to the National Institute of Virology in Pune for serological tests if we do suspect a patient has MERS-CoV symptoms,” a senior official of the state public health department said.