There are now two confirmed cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus in the United States, according to the CDC, with additional reports being filed in the Netherlands, Jordan, and the United Kingdom.
“Health-care facilities that provide for patients suspected or confirmed to be infected with MERS-CoV infection should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus from an infected patient to other patients, health-care workers and visitors,” wrote WHO in an update. “Health care workers should be educated, trained and refreshed with skills on infection prevention and control.”
MERS-CoV, which is caused by novel coronavirus, is in the same family as the severe acute respiratory system (SARS) virus. Patients diagnosed with MERS have underlying health problems like kidney disease or diabetes.
In Saudi Arabia, 254 patients have been diagnosed with MERS-CoV since March 2012. Nearly 30% of those patients have died. The majority of human-to-human infections occurred in health care facilities and almost ¼ of reported cases are from healthcare practitioners.
Symptoms of MERS-CoV include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC should be notified if patients who have visited the Arabian Peninsula or a medical care clinic in Saudi Arabia over the past few weeks report feeling sick within 5-14 days of travel.
MERS is rumored to be spread from camel-to-human, but researchers have not been able to confirm the origin of the virus.
“It is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV early because some have mild or unusual symptoms,” wrote WHO. “For this reason, it is important that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices all the time.”
- World Health Organization. Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – update. (May 2014). Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/csr/don/2014_05_15_mers/en/