MERS Virus Warning

MIDDLE EAST RESPIRATORY SYNDROME (MERS) Virus now in United States

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a Coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. More than 30% of these people died.This virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. However, there is no evidence of sustained spreading in community settings. As of Friday, 538 cases of MERS have been confirmed in 17 countries, including the United States, according to the World Health Organization. Of those, 145 people have died.

MERS is in the same family of viruses as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome — coronavirus) as well as the common cold. However, unlike SARS, which sickened more than 8,000 people in 2003 and killed 773 worldwide, MERS does not spread easily between humans — at least not yet. On May 2, 2014, the first U.S. case of MERS was confirmed in a traveler from Saudi Arabia to the U.S. The traveler is considered to be fully recovered and has been released from the hospital. Public health officials have contacted healthcare workers, family members, and travelers who had close contact with the patient. At this time, none of these contacts has had evidence of being infected with MERS-CoV.

On May 11, 2014, a second U.S. imported case of MERS was confirmed in a traveler who also came to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. This patient is currently hospitalized and doing well. People who had close contact with this patient are being contacted. The two U.S. cases are not linked. CDC and other public health partners continue to investigate and respond to the changing situation to prevent the spread of MERS-CoV in the U.S. These two cases of MERS imported to the U.S. represent a very low risk to the general public in this country.

CDC continues to closely monitor the MERS situation globally and work with partners to better understand the risks of this virus, including the source, how it spreads, and how infections might be prevented. The virus acts like a cold and attacks the respiratory system, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said. But symptoms, which include fever and a cough, are severe and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea have also been seen,CDC recognizes the potential for MERS-CoV to spread further and cause more cases globally and in the U.S. We have provided information for travelers and are working with health departments, hospitals, and other partners to prepare for this.

There are no treatments and no vaccine

As of now, doctors can treat symptoms of MERS, such as fever or breathing difficulties. However, there is no vaccine and no specific medicine, such as an antiviral drug, that targets MERS.

New Mexico Department of Health is asking that healthcare providers, infection preventionists and laboratorians be alert for and evaluate patients who meet the following:

  • Developed severe acute lower respiratory illness within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian peninsula (e.g., Saudia Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait); OR
  • Close contacts of a recent traveler from this area who has fever and acute respiratory illness; OR
  • Close contacts of a confirmed case

Clusters of patients with severe acute respiratory illness (e.g., fever and pneumonia requiring hospitalization), without recognized connections to patients with MERS-CoV or to travelers from the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding areas, should be evaluated for common respiratory pathogens.

 

Additional information can be found in the MERS-CoV Risk Assessment document provided by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Information from the CDC, World Health Organization and NMDOH

 

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Ken Oswald, Safety and Security Manager for Plateau

keno@plateautel.com

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