The next deadly epidemic...and it could be heading to Australia

You may have been hearing about a deadly outbreak of disease overseas in the last week, but maybe not have realised what it was or how relevant it was to Australia. But what we’re now realising is that this is definitely something we need to be hypervigilant about – experts are saying this could be worse than Ebola.

So far, 19 people have died in South Korea from MERS – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – and Australians may be more at risk than they were from Ebola.

According to authorities, we are prepared for any outbreaks but that is what we said when Ebola broke out earlier this year, and we had a number of cases in our hospitals.

In total, there have been 161 cases confirmed in South Korea, and one case has been confirmed in China.

Associate medicine professor at ANU, Sanjaya Senanayake, told Fairfax that MERS-CoV posed a similar threat to Ebola.

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“We went to a lot of trouble planning for Ebola, which was very sensible, but potentially the risk of getting MERS in Australia is even higher,” he said.

Doctors are warning that a person with the virus could spread it to others within 1-2 metres of them through coughing.

A spokeswoman for the federal Health Department said Australia was well prepared for any MERS-CoV case.

She said that we have border surveillance in place that will hopefully prevent any potential outbreaks. There is a requirement for commanders of international flights to report any ill passengers on board prior to arrival and for them to be quarantined.

According to the Australian Government’s Health Department website, “MERS coronavirus is a disease caused by a new virus that can cause a rapid onset of severe respiratory disease in people. Most severe cases have occurred in people with underlying conditions that may make them more likely to get respiratory infections.

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“All cases have lived in or travelled to the Middle East, or have had close contact with people who acquired the infection in the Middle East. There have been no cases in Australia”.

The Herald Sun has reported that 5000 Australian Muslims are heading to Saudi Arabia for Hajj, where the outbreak has so far killed 126, meaning a spread could occur on their arrival, or any person’s arrival from a country with an outbreak.


Tell us, are you worried about MERS? Do you think we should be alarmed or is this another Ebola?