Monday, May 19, 2014

MERS - A Quick Primer

There have been three cases of  MERS found in the US.  MERS, a severe respiratory infection, is caused by a virus and can be spread person-to-person.  It originates in the Middle East, and cases found so far have been related to two who traveled to the Middle East and one who had contact with one of those travelers.

According to CDC, there is very low risk to the general public here is the US.

Adapted from CDC Website on MERS -
MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV).. It was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.
Most people who got infected with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About 30% of them died. Some people were reported as having a mild respiratory illness.
MERS-CoV has been shown to spread between people who are in close contact. Transmission from infected patients to healthcare personnel has also been observed.
According to the CDC, the MERS situation in the U.S. represents a very low risk to the general public in this country.
CDC routinely advises that people help protect themselves from respiratory illnesses by taking everyday preventive actions:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.
Currently, there is no vaccine but CDC is discussing with partners the possibility of developing one.
There are no specific treatments recommended for illnesses caused by MERS-CoV. Medical care is supportive and to help relieve symptoms.
MERS in the U.S.
First U.S. Case (Indiana)
On May 2, 2014, the first U.S. case of MERS was confirmed in a traveler from Saudi Arabia to Indiana, via London and Chicago. The patient is a healthcare worker who lives and works in Saudi Arabia. He was isolated in a hospital during the course of illness and later discharged, having fully recovered. Public health officials have contacted healthcare workers, family members, and travelers who had close contact with the patient. More about the Indiana case.
Ongoing investigation of the first imported case of MERS in the U.S. identified on May 16, 2014, evidence of apparent past MERS-CoV infection in an Illinois resident who had contact with first U.S. case, reported in Indiana. The Illinois resident met with the Indiana MERS patient on two occasions shortly before the patient was identified as having MERS-CoV infection. The Illinois resident did not seek or require medical care. However, local health officials have monitored his health daily since May 3 as part of the investigation. The health department first tested this person for active MERS-CoV infection on May 5. Those results were negative. Public health officials are also collecting blood samples from people who were identified as close contacts of the Indiana patient. On May 16, the test result was positive for the Illinois resident, showing that he has antibodies to MERS-CoV. More about how we test for MERS-CoV infection. More about the Illinois resident.
Second U.S. Case (Florida)
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 also a healthcare worker who traveled from Saudi Arabia to Orlando via London, Boston and Atlanta. The patient is currently isolated in a hospital and doing well. Health officials are working to identify and notify people who may have been exposed to the patient during air travel and in the hospital. More about the Florida case.
The two U.S. cases are not linked.
Situation Update
The MERS situation in the U.S. represents a very low risk to the general public in this country. 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. We recognize the potential for MERS-CoV to spread further and cause more cases globally and in the United States. In preparation for this, we have
Enhanced surveillance and laboratory testing capacity in states to detect cases
Developed guidance and tools for health departments to conduct public health investigations
Provided recommendations for healthcare infection control and other measures to prevent disease spread
Provided guidance for flight crews, Emergency Medical Service (EMS) units at airports, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officers about reporting ill travelers to CDC
Disseminated up-to-date information to the general public, international travelers, and public health partners

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