Comment by Dr Ben Neuman: openness the key to defeating MERS
Release Date 27 July 2015
Commenting on precautions carried out at the Manchester Royal Infirmary following two potential cases of MERS, Dr Ben Neuman, Lecturer in Virology, University of Reading, said:
"The best test for early-stage MERS is simple and it can be done in an evening, but it can take as much as a week until a person builds up enough virus in their body to give a positive result.
"MERS is a relative of the common cold virus, and the disease starts the same way with a cough and a fever. But unlike a cold, MERS will gradually worsen over the course of a week or two. MERS is also something of a bully - it picks on old people, men in particular. MERS is not as infectious as a cold or flu - on average it takes three sick people to make two more, so the virus usually dwindles and dies out in people.
"The lesson from the recent Korean outbreak is that MERS only becomes a problem if it is mishandled. The four keys to stopping MERS are rapidly isolating the cases, monitoring their contacts for signs of disease, cleaning the area and reporting back openly and honestly to the public. Both suspected patients are now isolated, and Public Health England will be tracing their contacts now. As a result of Ebola, there are far more people in the UK with experience in handling dangerous viruses than there were a year ago. MERS can linger for a few days on hospital surfaces, but is destroyed instantly by most household cleaners, so it is important that the A&E department is cleaned before people come back to work.
"Public Health England stopped Ebola here and their people are winning the fight against Ebola in Africa. If these cases are confirmed, I am confident they will rise to the challenge of MERS."