Gender Dynamics and Socio-Cultural Determinants of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia

Main Article Content

Muhanad Ahmed Ali

Keywords

MERS, MERS-CoV, Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome, Gender-based Analysis

Abstract

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a severe viral respiratory illness that is caused by a new strain from the beta group of coronavirus (CoV). At both the global and national level (Saudi Arabia), men are at a greater risk of contracting the virus (68%) in comparison to women. This disparity presents an interesting question: What accounts for these observed sex differences in MERS infection rates? Using an analytic lens that considers the unique dynamics of socially constructed and specific gender roles, this review challenges the common assumption that biological differences in vulnerability (genetic disposition) are the primary drivers for the disparate male infection rates. Specifically, the author uses a gender-based analysis (GBA) to explore gender-based risk factors within Saudi Arabia that may contribute to this disparity. The findings of this review suggest that particular gendered risk factors including religious (Hajj) and cultural practices (shisha smoking), and social roles pertaining to livestock management (dromedary camels) may create different exposures to MERS-CoV. Ultimately, this research illustrates a significant gap in the current knowledge and understanding of how gender dynamics affect infectious diseases, especially concerning the issue of containment of and protection from MERS.