What is SARS and MERS? SARS stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. It is a life-threatening form of pneumonia.

The disease SARS was first detected in November 2002 in the province of Guangdong (China) and has since spread further.

At the time, the fear was great that the virus would spread around the world and cause many victims. In 2005, it turned out that the measures to prevent the virus from spreading had been successful. The virus has therefore not been able to cause a worldwide epidemic.

In September 2012, a new type of virus was discovered that is closely related to the SARS virus. This virus is called the MERS virus. This virus can also cause a very serious respiratory infection. The infections with MERS have almost all contracted in the Middle East.

Symptoms SARS and MERS

Both illnesses start with flu-like symptoms, such as (sudden, high) fever and muscle pain. In addition, people suffer from a cough, sore throat, diarrhea or shortness of breath. The respiratory complaints can be very serious.

How do SARS and MERS arise

The causative agents of both diseases are variants of the Corona virus, a cold virus. The period from infection to the onset of symptoms usually lasts 2-7 days, with a maximum of 10 days.

Infection There seems to be little or no transmission of the SARS virus at the moment. Since 2012, a number of patients have been infected with the MERS virus. Almost all of these people are infected in the Middle East. Dromedaries may play a role in the transmission of the virus. The virus hardly seems to be transmissible from person to person.

Is it serious and what can you expect?

Both diseases can cause very serious respiratory infections. Since September 2012, 261 people have been infected with the MERS virus. Of these, 93 people died.

There are no medicines available against the virus, and there is no vaccine yet.

When to go to the doctor?

As far as is known, MERS has not yet been reported in the Netherlands. In the following situation it is advisable to contact your doctor (or a doctor abroad):

  • you have been to the Middle East recently and you have complaints of a high fever and breathing problems

Indicate that you have been to the Middle East. In such a situation it is wise to limit contact with others as much as possible in order to prevent any spread of the disease.

It is better not to visit your doctor or family doctor yourself. It is wiser to contact your doctor or general practitioner by telephone. Since a doctor or general practitioner in the Netherlands will not immediately think of an MERS, it is advisable to clearly indicate that you are thinking of MERS disease in addition to your symptoms. It is also important to mention which areas you visited during your trip.

In suspicious cases, the GP will therefore determine whether a referral to hospital is necessary. In the hospital, with the help of a lung photo and additional tests, it can become clear whether there is MERS disease.

See also, Everything about Anthrax

What can you do about it yourself?

In the Netherlands you currently do not need to take any precautions. However, it is important for travelers to the Middle East to take precautions.

The measures you can take are general hygiene measures and avoid contact with animals (camels) and animal products.

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