Blog » MERS Concerns

MERS Concerns

Created Jul 15 2015, 08:00 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • MERS
  • coronavirus
  • MERS-CoV
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome
  • infection control
  • infection transmission
  • respiratory infection
  • infection prevention

Thursday, July 16, 2015

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.

What should’ve been done to prevent the spread of MERS?

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:

  • Have you been in contact with a MERS patient?
  • Have you visited a health care facility where a MERS patient has been treated?
  • Have you traveled to the Middle East in the 14 days before you developed symptoms?

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.

Protecting your facility from MERS

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.

Recognizing 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:

  • Chills or rigors
  • Dyspnea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Myalgia
  • Nonproductive cough.

Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Productive cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting.

Infection prevention and control strategies

Educate staff about the following infection prevention and control strategies.

  • When scheduling appointments, tell patients and those who accompany them to call ahead or inform staff immediately upon arrival that they have symptoms of respiratory infection.
  • Ensure that all people with respiratory infection symptoms adhere to respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.
  • Encourage patients with respiratory infection symptoms to sit as far away from others as possible or place the person in a separate waiting room, if available.
  • Triage patients rapidly.
  • Isolate those identified at risk for having MER-CoV infection in an airborne infection isolation room.
  • Adhere to standard, contact, and airborne precautions.
  • Manage visitor access and movement within your facility; visitors to MERS patients should be scheduled and controlled to allow for screening and infection control instruction.
  • Encourage staff to report any signs or symptoms they develop regardless of their use of personal protective equipment.
  • Exclude staff from work for 14 days to monitor for signs and symptoms of respiratory illness and fever if they experience unprotected exposure.

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?