The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health has reported 1,367 cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) since 2012, including 584 deaths.

Image/Saudi ministry of Health
Image/Saudi ministry of Health

The Kingdom’s Command and Control Centre (CCC) carried out a survey to assess levels of misconceptions about Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in the community. Health officials say the assessment of knowledge, attitude and practice toward MERS is necessary to plan, implement and evaluate effective risk communication and awareness activities.

A cross-sectional survey was performed for that purpose among the population in Saudi Arabia to explore the prevalence of misconceptions about MERS and also the top sources of health information in the community. The survey was conducted during the period between February 7, 2016, and March 27, 2016. A total of 1373 participants were enrolled. Majority of the sample were Females, Saudis, and living in urban areas (68.5 %, 93.3%, and 81.6% respectively). About 45% of the participants were young adults (20-29 years old).

The majority of respondents had several misconceptions in all aspects of MERS. Some of the most concerning findings are mainly about transmission of infection, dealing with infected camels, and confusion about the risk groups. Perceived severity of MERS was not realized by the majority, and over one third were not worried at all about MERS.

Around 75% believed that fighting MERS is a shared responsibility, and the rest thought that the community has no role over it. Misconceptions about MERS were significantly higher among females, students, and those who are living in urban areas compared to their counterparts.

Internet was the participants’ top source of information for MERS, followed by Television/Radio, and then newspapers. Also, study subjects sought knowledge about MERS from family and friends more than physicians.

Addressing these gaps of knowledge in the community through the appropriate channels of communication is needed. It would help in reducing misconceptions and prevent the transmission of MERS.

As of Mar. 23, the World Health Organization has been notified of 1,698 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at least 609 related deaths globally since Sep. 2012.