The word is “zoonotic”.
That’s a disease that jumps to us from animals. Ebola is one, HIV is another. So is SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), remember that?
From birds, from monkeys, all kinds of living things.
None of them are nice.
And all of them have no cure when they first happen. People die, and the medics go into overdrive, looking for effective treatment.
Right now the alarm bells are ringing for MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), a new coronavirus thought to have started with bats and somehow transferred to camels.
Since first encountered in 2012, most cases have been in the Arabian peninsula – the camel connection.
The panic now is that it’s suddenly jumped to South Korea. Which is of course the problem with all modern illnesses. A few hours on a Boeing and they could wind up anywhere.
Two in one
MERS is particularly nasty – a virus with two sets of symptoms for the price of one.
Like most respiratory illnesses, it feels like flu – fever, coughing and shortness of breath. The unwanted bonus is like norovirus – nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
If complications set in, pneumonia and kidney failure follow. And of course, dehydration. 3 – 4 out of every 10 who catch it die – a mortality rate of one-third.
Not to be played with. So if ever there was a spur to tighten up personal hygiene, this is it. Even camels can succumb to lack of fluids.
A good stimulus is to remember that schoolboy chestnut, “beware the camel spits.”
MERS is catching
Right there is one of the ways that MERS transmits – though the air from someone coughing or sneezing. Droplets from any kind of body fluid are a real danger.
The other way would be cuddling up to a camel, or someone unlucky enough to have MERS.
And not even a cuddle – a handshake will do it, or even borrowing a pen to sign something.
Touch your mouth, nose or eyes after that – and most of us do it 3,000 times a day – and you could already be at risk.
You see, you can’t tell someone has MERS when it starts. It takes around ten days for the symptoms to show themselves. (Tweet this) The downer is that it’s contagious all of that time.
During which you’ve caught the plane, done your sales meeting, enjoyed the celebratory banquet, flown home again – and been in time for your daughter’s stage debut in the school ballet. So how many people did you glad-hand in that little jaunt?
You got it – wash your hands at every opportunity. Before food, after the loo – and whenever you can after touching somebody or something from outside your usual circle of living.
The other defence is to safeguard your immediate environment.
Not the great outdoors of course, but the enclosed spaces we all share – lots of us all together, moving in the same space, using the same things, breathing the same air – at work, at school, at places where we eat and relax.
Before we get there, all viruses and bacteria that may be present are destroyed with a Hypersteriliser. A fine mist of hydrogen peroxide plasma penetrates everywhere and actively oxidises them to nothing. So when we walk in through the door, the place is sterile.
Two defences – against a two-faced virus with serious implications if we don’t keep watchful.
Get lost, MERS.
Not “how do you do?” But “good riddance”.