Rare Respiratory Infections, Illnesses, and Diseases

Sometimes, respiratory infections lead to rare infectious diseases and illnesses. By rare, these infections either don’t occur as frequently as others, or they happen in certain areas or regions. These are the rare respiratory syndromes and illnesses that result from viral or bacterial respiratory infections.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

MERS is a rare respiratory tract illness caused by a coronavirus infection. MERS infections cause sporadic infectious cases and can cause severe disease in people with comorbid health conditions.

How Infections Happen

We don’t know the source of MERS infections. Research points to a possible source of infected camels and camel products, such as milk and meat. However, we know that exposure and travel to countries where infections occur and outbreaks in healthcare settings are contributing factors. 

Symptoms of MERS

Most infected individuals experience an onset of symptoms between 5-7 days, called an incubation period. However, symptoms can manifest anywhere between 2-14 days in otherwise healthy individuals. On the other hand, it can take up to 20 days for symptoms to present in individuals with autoimmune conditions. MERS infections can affect many organs and systems. Thus, the symptoms present as either an upper respiratory illness or non-specific. For instance:

  • Fever
  • Nonproductive cough
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Multiorgan failure

Diagnosing MERS

  • Viral testing
  • Chest imaging like x-rays and scans of the lungs may not help diagnose MERS, but they help determine lower respiratory tract involvement.

Managing and Treating MERS

To contain the spread, infected persons need to isolate and quarantine themselves. A third of infectious cases lead to severe complications, such as pneumonia. Quite often, this happens in people with underlying conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, and kidney failure. Thus, healthcare providers want to start treatment as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for MERS. Treating MERS includes managing current symptoms. Antiviral medications shorten the length and severity of symptoms caused by a viral infection. Sometimes, the MERS infection affects your lower respiratory tract, leading to severe complications. In that case, providers prescribe antibiotics.