This deadly disease called MERS has come closer home. MERS is Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a viral respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

How we guard ourselves against this disease should take priority above all important decisions, because we must set up a strong screening process at the entrance points. Public health has the mandate to inform and protect citizens against deadly diseases.

Thailand on June 19 confirmed its first case of MERS the deadly virus that has killed 24 people in South Korea. Some 25 countries have reported cases of MERS – Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen (Middle East); Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom (UK) (Europe); Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt (Africa); China, Malaysia, Republic of Korea and the Philippines (Asia); and the United States of America (Americas).

We should be concerned that the disease has come closer to our doorstep. Hundreds of our people go to Thailand everyday for trade and other reasons. What systems have we put in place to make sure that the disease is not brought into the country?

Our health personnel have acted swiftly in times of treat from new disease from the region. We hope that airport in Paro and gates have beefed up surveillance systems.  We should, because repercussions, if the disease enters the country, could be serious.

MERS is a disease with syndromes that include fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath. Pneumonia is a common finding on examination. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, have also been observed. Severe illness can cause respiratory failure that requires mechanical ventilation and support in an intensive-care unit.

Some patients have had organ failure, especially of the kidneys, or septic shock. The virus also causes severe disease in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with such chronic diseases as diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

The strange thing about MERS is that a person can be infected with the virus and yet not be ill. That’s why the disease is dangerous.

We must bolster our health and security systems. This is extremely vital.