While the World Health Organization monitors the spread of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavrius overseas, the CDC has issued guidance for healthcare providers in case the disease hits the United States.
Since September, the WHO has received reports of 50 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 30 deaths. The virus is from the same family as the SARS coronavirus.
The WHO has received reports of laboratory-confirmed cases originating in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. France, Germany, Tunisia and the United Kingdom also reported laboratory-confirmed cases; they either were transferred there for care of the disease or returned from the Middle East and subsequently became ill.
In France, Tunisia and the U.K., there has been limited local transmission among patients who had not been to the Middle East but had been in close contact with the laboratory-confirmed or probable cases.
“There is clear evidence of human-to-human transmission, possibly involving different modes, such as droplet and contact transmission,” according to the CDC. “But further studies are required to better understand the risks.”
The biggest cluster of cases thus far was linked to a healthcare facility in Saudi Arabia. A total of 23 cases were reported in that cluster, with 11 deaths. At least two cases were reported as not linked to the healthcare facility, according to the CDC, and one was a family member of an infected person. Two healthcare providers were infected after caring for patients who had MERS-CoV infection.
The WHO stated: “Healthcare providers are advised to maintain vigilance. Recent travelers returning from the Middle East who develop severe acute respiratory infection should be tested for MERS-CoV. Specimens from patients lower respiratory tracts should be obtained for diagnosis where possible. Clinicians are reminded that MERS-CoV infection should be considered even with atypical signs and symptoms, such as diarrhea, in patients who are immunocompromised.
“Healthcare facilities are reminded of the importance of systematic implementation of infection prevention and control. Healthcare facilities that provide care for patients suspected or confirmed with MERS-CoV infection should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to other patients, healthcare workers and visitors.”
For patients under investigation and probable and confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, the CDC advises facilities to use its 2007 guideline regarding isolation precautions for the coronavirus that caused SARS. See Appendix A (page 93) of the PDF: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/downloads/Isolation2007.pdf.
For more information from the CDC, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/case-def.html.