Dubai: Research has revealed that oral disinfection using products containing povidone iodine can prevent viral respiratory infections, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), by more than 99.99 per cent.

Mers, a respiratory virus that is mainly found in the Middle Eastern region, has a 36 per cent fatality rate with most of the incidents occurring in Saudi Arabia. The virus is not easily transmitted like the flu, since it is not airborne. However, precautionary measures should be taken into consideration to prevent infection.

Symptoms of the Mers virus are fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Around three to four out of every 10 patients reported with Mers have died. Dr Maren Eggers, Head of Experimental Virology and Department of Disinfectant Testing Laboratory, said that today there is more than a case a day in Saudi Arabia linked to the Mers virus.

More than 1,188 Mers cases were reported in 2012, therefore causing a potential increase in the spread of the virus. Dr Maren also emphasised the importance of raising awareness on prevention methods with the approach of the Haj season, in order to avoid incidents.

Dr Maren, who has specialised in virus diagnostics particularly influenza and has led several research projects in diagnostic and hygiene, said prevention methods are simple and effective when carried out properly.

“The polyvinylpyrrolidone iodine products that were tested in this study showed virucidal activity against Mers with a rapid kill rate of more than 99.99 per cent within only 15 seconds of exposure,” she said.

Dr Maren explained that the study demonstrated the antiseptic method and is not an antiviral treatment since it cannot be consumed to treat the body internally. She added that the research studies present the public with effective prevention methods rather than a cure for the Mers virus.

“In case of an outbreak or if individuals are in affected areas, they should frequently wash their hands, they should protect their faces with masks and they should be extra careful with camel products, avoiding raw milk and uncooked camel meat,” clarified Dr Maren.

She said that should a camel show symptoms of runny nose or symptoms of illness, people should immediately stay away from the animal and wash their hands after any interactions. Dr Maren said much of the studies were conducted using betadine antiseptics showing more than 99.99 per cent efficacy against the Mers virus.

As of June 21 of this year, more than 1,378 cases were reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).