Experts believe the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), also called the "Camel Flu" which was initially identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, could spread during the Qatar World Cup.
MERS belongs to the coronavirus family which includes COVID-19 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Over the last decade, dozens of people have fallen ill with MERS in Qatar, which is the host country of the current FIFA World Cup.
What is MERS?
According to the World Health Organization, MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is a zoonotic virus, meaning that its transmitted between animals and people. MERS-CoV has been identified and linked to human infections in dromedary camels in several countries in the Middle East and South Asia.
Reports highlight that the largest known outbreak of MERS outside the Arabian Peninsula occurred in the Republic of Korea in 2015, wherein the outbreak was associated with a traveller returning from Arabian Peninsula.
Like the coronavirus, MERS-CoV spreads from an infected person's respiratory secretions like coughing and sneezing. Studies show that infected persons have spread MERS-CoV in healthcare settings like hospitals.
Typical symptoms are cough, fever and shortness of breath. While pneumonia is common, MERS patients do not always develop these symptoms. Like COVID-19, MERS-CoV infection ranges from asymptomatic (no symptoms) or mild respiratory symptoms to severe acute respiratory disease and death.
Severe illness can cause respiratory failure that requires mechanical ventilation or support in an intensive care unit. WHO says that older people, people with weakened immune systems, and those with chronic diseases such as renal disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes appear to be at greater risk of developing severe diseases.