The uptick in Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) cases that caught US media attention when the first case was reported in the United States is most likely the result of seasonal changes, and not due to an increase in transmissibility of the disease, according the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO). The announcement was made in a May 7 WHO statement that attributes the rise in part "to breaches in WHO’s recommended infection prevention and control measures" in some Saudi Arabian health care facilities.
MERS is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness, and about 30% of these people died. Recently, the first case of MERS in the US was reported in a health care worker who had just returned from the Arabian peninsula and been in direct contact with an individual with MERS. That health care worker is anticipated to be released from the hospital soon.
The spread of the virus has been among individuals who were in close contact with patients who were infected. The incubation period is from 2 to 14 days, and researchers believe individuals are not contagious during the incubation period. If a patient is suspected to have the virus, then standard contact and airborne precautions are recommended.
For more information on MERS protocols, visit the the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage on interim prevention and control recommendations around MERS. Although it does not address MERS specifically, APTA's infectious disease control webpage helps physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) understand the protocols for reducing risk of disease transmission. APTA staff will continue to monitor the situation and add resources as they are needed.
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