In previous updates, I have warned that there was a high potential for MERS to spread rapidly during the Hajj Pilgrimage. Based on recent confirmed cases of MERS in Saudi Arabia, it appears that MERS may indeed get an excellent opportunity to breakout globally. If even a very small percentage of the millions that have embarked on the Hajj Pilgrimage return home infected with MERS, we will be dealing with a potentially global pandemic.
Case and point. South Korea just spent months aggressively trying to contain a small outbreak. If even a dozen more infected individuals had mingled through Seoul while contagious, South Korea could still be dealing with a major healthcare crisis that overwhelmed their system. Further, MERS in the opinion of many experts is far worse than even Ebola because it is more contagious and just as deadly even though it hasn’t received the same attention.
LMS is upgrading its safety precautions for the time period beginning this week and extending until 30 days after the Hajj is complete. For you safety during this period, we recommend that travelers avoid Saudi Arabia. Further, avoid anyone that has recently traveled to Saudi Arabia or has been in contact with others traveling to Saudi Arabia. If you know someone that has and they are exhibiting flulike symptoms, recommend they get evaluated at a hospital for MERS immediately and self-quarantine until you know that the person is clear of MERS. If you begin to suffer flulike symptoms after potential exposure, get medical help immediately. Remember, once the pilgrimage is complete it will take some people weeks to return home. As such, medical monitoring during the virus incubation period must be conducted for a prolonged period of time post pilgrimage before one can conclude the virus did not break out of the Middle East.
Respective of hygiene and preventative measures, continue to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, face, inner nostrils, and mouth. Further, use an HOCL compound such as “Briotech” to decontaminate and kill the virus on contact.
By Guiles Hendrik
August 20, 2015
UPDATE: Continuing on my previous MERS reporting it is worth noting the Philippines has now confirmed another case of MERS. Disturbingly, the patient returned from Dubai on June 19th and apparently is only now being admitted and treated. Unlike South Korea, which aggressively quarantined and treated patients, it appears the Philippines were slow in identifying this case. Further, even with South Korea’s aggressive actions, MERS cases are still popping up on the peninsula. As such, it is likely we will see in the coming days and weeks another local outbreak of MERS, but this time in the Philippines. Considering the virus comes from the same family as some of the nastiest contenders for a flu pandemic and Asian is densely populated, the virus may spread more broadly. Although, it does not yet pose a pandemic threat, its ability to continue to spread and avoid being eradicated means this virus could still jump to the US and spread amongst our cities. As noted in my previous article, MERS has a death rate on par with Ebola and is spread easier so is not a virus to be taken lightly.
Recommendation: Continue to monitor the spread of the virus, review your pandemic preparedness, and update your supplies. Currently, MERS is of very minimal risk to you, but this could change rapidly. As of now, there is no need to modify travel unless you are planning to visit the Philippines. In this case, take extra flu prevention precautions and monitor yourself closely for flu like symptoms. In the event I see MERS clusters beginning to appear and spread, I will post new updates and recommendations.
By Guiles Hendrik
July 6, 2015
MERS, source: CDC
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, “MERS,” is a respiratory virus that kills nearly 40% of people infected and has its origins in Saudi Arabia. It has traveled beyond the Middle East in isolated cases and so far hasn’t caused a major pandemic, but has eluded being wiped out for over two years. Recently, the virus has made a major jump to South Korea, which significantly increases the odds the virus will go global. To put this disease in perspective, it has a death rate on par with Ebola, but is spread more easily than Ebola. In short, this virus concerns me more than Ebola and Ebola concerned me. Nonetheless, the facts shouldn’t panic you, but they certainly should concern you. If MERS mutates or is able to spread to other large cities, it could still pose a threat to your health.
Fortunately, right now there is no need for alarm. South Korea appears to be doing an effective job at isolating cases and quarantining anyone with a possible infection. Although it is likely more cases will appear in South Korea, the real issue is whether any cases appear outside of South Korea in places like Japan, China, Europe, or the USA. LMS will be tracking the efforts to contain this latest outbreak and will continue to update you when/if there is further news. As a part of our pandemic analysis, you should know that our information comes in part, directly from some of the leading experts in virology/infectious diseases at the forefront of combating the Ebola outbreaks. These are legitimate bona fides and far exceed what most could get even from the CDC. In short, like our Ebola coverage, we will be bringing you vetted, grounded, expert analysis that is not motivated by hype or hysteria. Read more