Much Ado About MERS

The views expressed here are mine, derived through my own readings and from my anecdotal experiences. Medicine is forever changing, so what you read here may not be relevant next week/ month/ year. If this doesn’t satisfy you, then I have possibly done something positive, as this may encourage you to research the information on your own. Just please use respectable sources (hint, Facebook is not a news source).

There is a lot of hoopla about MERS right now, but thankfully it seems to be dying down a bit. A few weeks ago at work, there was lockdown, with some heavy-duty precautions being instituted immediately. With news of a MERS death in Abu Dhabi, everyone was paranoid. Better to be safe than sorry, they all said – and that is fair.

Shortly thereafter, a set of screening rules was issued, which helped physicians choose who to actually screen. Overall screening compliance was pretty good considering its rapid roll out. The public’s fear has seemingly dwindled at this time. Not so long ago we had the H1N1 paranoia, and the response to that was taxing for those of us who were working in the Emergency Department. Guidelines were issued slowly and were seemingly difficult to implement. This time however, the doctors and the public have learned.

A fever is the body’s natural mechanism to fight off infection. As far as the public is concerned, there is a lot of “feverphobia”. Guys, please relax. I have no definite rules as to when you should panic, but generally if someone has a fever but looks well, be thankful. Try paracetamol or ibuprofen first, and don’t use your left over antibiotics.

Please understand that not all fevers are MERS. There are a ton of viruses floating around, and they can all cause fever. The majority are benign. One virus that we are all familiar with that has been killing folks for eons, and in my mind is much more of a real daily threat than MERS, is good ole Influenza. In 1918, the ‘Great Epidemic’ killed approximately 50-100 million people (3-5% of the worlds population), and it predominantly infected young healthy people.

And, if you want to talk about the real killers that you will confront on a daily basis, that are more likely to affect you, consider car accidents. No joke! Compare the total year-end number of deaths caused by MERS versus car accidents, and you’ll get the idea.

So all in all, don’t panic. The CDC advises people to not change their travel plans. The World Health Organization has stated that this is not a global health concern, and that “there is no evidence of sustained human to human transmission”.

Wash your hands, and cover your mouth when you sneeze / cough. Grandma always told you to do that and as usual that proves that she is smarter than you and me. To top it all off, you’re likely to listen to her more carefully, than you will to me.

Written by: Dr. DMS

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