According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) has infected more than 100 people, killing 9 of them in South Korea. People were infected by the virus when a traveler brought it back to South Korea after a trip to the Middle East. MERS wasn’t suspected by health care facilities; so this single patient spread the virus in several health care facilities before it was discovered. One person who became infected then traveled to China, also causing alarm there.
A few simple questions could’ve prevented the spread of MERS in South Korea. Any patient who presents to a healthcare facility with a fever or respiratory symptoms should be asked:
Anyone who answers yes to any of these questions should be managed as a suspected case of MERS while the diagnosis is confirmed; public health authorities should also be notified.
The most important action you can take to protect your facility from MERS is to educate your staff about recognizing MERS and implementing the infection prevention and control measures needed to prevent the spread of MERS.
In addition to asking the appropriate questions, staff should be taught to recognize the signs and symptoms of MERS. A wide-range of clinical findings have been reported in patients infected with the MERS-CoV ranging from asymptomatic infection to acute upper respiratory illness, and rapidly progressive pneumonitis, respiratory failure, septic shock, and multiorgan failure resulting in death. Most cases have been reported in adults with an average age of 50, although children and adults of all ages have been infected. Most of those who have required hospitalization have other chronic health issues. Upon admission, common signs and symptoms include:
Other signs and symptoms may include:
Educate staff about the following infection prevention and control strategies.
Is your facility at risk for a MERS-CoV invasion? What measures are you taking to prevent the spread of MERS-CoV in your facility?