Primer on Pathogens: Part 2/3

I remember a few years back when H1N1 (the swine flu) hit. Our ED volumes were through the roof. H1N1 affected middle and high school aged kids more than older populations. It was one time that perhaps the elderly were not as affected (perhaps because of years and years of flu shots and being exposed to other viruses.)

I was working with a PICU intensivist who was moonlighting in the ER. These are doctors who work in the Pediatric ICU. He was wicked smart, managed ED volumes well, had an awesome bedside personality and was great with the nursing staff. If you work in healthcare you’d realize these things ALL together in one physician are rare.

H1N1 Influenza Virus

There was becoming a concern about resources. If H1N1 hit as bad as was thought– this is what he said, “There won’t be enough ventilators to take care of everyone.”

That’s not funny.

Have you heard of coronavirus or the one that’s in the news a lot lately: MERS-CoV that’s affecting people near and around Saudi Arabia.

So far there has been 81 confirmed cases and 45 deaths— that’s about a 56% death rate.

That’s high. In medical terms, this would be considered a highly virulent bug. Imagine you’re told you have this virus and you have more than a 50% chance of dying.

MERS-CoV is a member of the coronavirus family. If you remember SARS from a few years back that affected South China and Hong Kong — this is a member of the same family. Consider it a cousin. Death rate from SARS was around 10%.

See what I mean?

Transmission of MERS is from close contact. This generally means you have to be within six feet of someone for prolonged periods of time to contract the bug– like living in the same household or being a medical person caring for a patient.

People present with symptoms of a URI (upper respiratory infection) which would be fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Thus far– there have been no cases in the US.

However, coronaviruses are common but usually not fatal. In fact, the CDC website says most people will be infected at some point in their life.  They were first identified in the 1960s.

Interestingly, the SARS virus mentioned above hasn’t been seen since 2004. Where is it hiding? Will it come back?

The coronavirus family is a good example of the gamut viruses can run that are related. From mild infection to death.

Have you heard of the Saudi Arabian MERS virus? Did you know it had such a high death rate?

To read more about MERS: check out this post.

Here is Part I of the series.

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