Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) among Middle Easterners

Image of map showing countries in Arabian Penninsula with confirmed MERs and countries where precautions are recommended, as detailed on this page.

Race, genetics and health have a lot in common; all of these things influence our risk that we will acquire a specific disease or heath condition. While genetics plays a role of increasing or decreasing our risk of these conditions through evolution and past family history race also plays a genetic role. Race typically is used as a way to determine where someone’s ancestors originated. Depending on where in the world someone is from could be a hint at what genetic disposition they have for a certain ailment. Since there is no biologically discrete race the medical field uses race to determine the relationship between socioeconomic status and genetics. The difference between race and genetics is that race is subjective and genetics is purely objective. Health status information can be obtained by using these two things for a specific person and for a general population. Researchers use these things to show trends in heath disposition among populations.

MERS  is prevalent among Middle Easterners because it originated from the camel animal source. Camels are more prominent in the Middle East. This virus is also spread from person to person which is the most common way that it spread to the United States. Genetic factors that play a role in MERS is something that middle easterners would have as compared to other races. I think that the main factor though is social and how much contact they have with camels compared to other countries where their main mule animals are not camels.

In the United States we have had only a few cases of MERS and both cases were with people who have confirmed contact in Saudi Arabia. The symptoms look similar to an upper respiratory infection but the virus is not the same type that most people experience here in the United States and must be treated as such.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/ (accessed July 8, 2014).

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. shivani says:

    Your explanation of the relationships between race, genetics, and health is really clear. I think another important point to make with regards to the relationship between race and health is that race is not only an indicator of what one may be susceptible to but also as an indicator of the quality of health-care treatment they may receive, based on what racial category they seem to fit – this is also impacted by socio-economic status.
    I think racial categories do offer some amount of usefulness in clinical studies. They give individuals who fit into X race more of an idea of what they may be susceptible to. However, this can increase the amount of racial profiling and potentially result in discrimination against X race in the field. I know I have read accounts and studies of cases where minority patients are less likely to receive a certain medication for their illness compared to the White patients due to generalizations physicians have made about minority patients with X illness. I do think that we should continue to have racial categories primarily to see where these racialized disparities are so that we can work on rectifying and ameliorating them. I think it will still also be useful for epidemiological work as well.

  2. Ethan Gotz says:

    Hey Vanessa, I think you made some really great points about connecting health, race, and genetics. One thing that I realized when learning this material, and I think you hinted at it a little, was that race and health are indirectly connected and genetics and health are directly connected. Race and health are only connected though indirect methods such as the environment the race are living in, what economic factors, etc. Genetics and health are directly related in which a genetic mutation can directly cause a disease. I think that is what you meant when you were discussing subjective and objective. It is good to see that we were on the same page.
    All in all, I think that racial categories can be a beneficial way of analyzing clinical case studies. For example, if you are wondering why an individual has MERS, as you described above, you would need to look at the environment in which this illness could be spread. You would then find that MERS can only be spread through camels. In contrast, whites would not commonly have this disease because they are not exposed to camels as often as middle easterners are exposed to them in countries like Saudi Arabia or Syria.

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