With the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) spreading across many countries, the Union government on Wednesday issued an advisory, asking the States to increase surveillance on those travelling to the affected countries.

MERS-CoV is a SARS-like condition that can cause fever, cough and pneumonia. It is related to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and its symptoms are also similar to H1N1 or swine flu and H7N9 virus.

The virus has already killed more than 45 people across the world with the majority of deaths reported from Saudi Arabia. It has affected the Middle East countries the most while China has reported 131 cases and Taiwan 1.

While India has a heavy flow of people from across the world, so far no case of MERS has been reported. In a circular issued to the States, the Health and Family Welfare Ministry has said the virus had become a global threat and patients with travel history to the Middle East, China and Taiwan and who show signs of respiratory discomfort should be reported and kept under surveillance.

The Ministry has also asked the State health officials under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) to keep vigil. A total of 81 cases have been reported across the world with WHO.

The symptoms are similar to swine flu where a patient suffers from acute respiratory problems. The infection leads to pneumonia, which can prove fatal. The advisory has asked the States to inform hospitals in each district to collect samples from patients with such symptoms. The samples should be sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune and the National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi.

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