Cases of MERS and Chikungunya Continue to Rise Rapidly Worldwide




he World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report upticks in global cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV).


WiRED wrote about MERS and Chikungunya in earlier stories that featured its modules on these diseases, but since then confirmed cases have increased rapidly. For example, WHO reports 186 cases of MERS and 36 dead in the Republic of Korea, up from 126 cases and 11 dead only a month earlier. Chikungunya infections are widespread throughout Central America, and now the CDC reports that there have been 506 cases in the United States and in its territories, up from the very first incident this summer.


How can people prevent these diseases? Since no vaccines exist, the best advice is for people to wash their hands often, clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces, avoid touching their faces and keep away from sick people. In the case of CHIKV, people can prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellant and mosquito nets, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and sleeping with a fan circulating the air. Since antibiotics do not affect viruses, treatment involves easing symptoms through plenty of rest, fluids and medications such as aspirin.

MERS is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and is thought to have originated in a camel or in a bat. Coronaviruses cause a variety of illnesses ranging from the common cold to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).


MERS patients can suffer a mild respiratory illness or experience a severe acute illness. The latter condition can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure and death. As many as thirty percent of MERS victims die, usually because they already have other ailments such as diabetes or heart disease.


CHIKV is spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes. People who contract CHIKV through mosquito bites experience fever, severe joint pain, rash and swelling. The name chikungunya comes from an African tribal language and means “that which bends up,” referring to the stooped posture of patients in pain. CHIKV, which is often misdiagnosed as the more serious dengue fever, rarely causes death; however, the symptoms can be severe and disabling.


In order to educate underserved communities on illness prevention and treatment, WiRED continually monitors reports on global health issues and often creates rapid response modules when diseases escalate or emerge quickly.


WiRED Training Modules


WiRED’s MERS module (which is also available in Arabic) describes the disease, its origins, diagnosis and treatment and gives specific instructions to caregivers, household members and clinicians.


WiRED’s CHIKV module (which is also available in Spanish) describes the disease, its symptoms, treatments and methods of prevention.




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