CDC warns of MERS risk

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned health care providers Wednesday that Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) could be coming to an examination room near them via patients who have traveled to Saudi Arabia, where a MERS outbreak was reported recently, or other countries in the Middle East.

The CDC also urged the public to pay particular attention during travel to these areas.

The CDC issued the warning in the wake of a MERS-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak at a hospital in Hofuf, Saudia Arabia — a cluster infection that included four cases plus an ambulance driver who took the index patient to the hospital — was recently reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The hospital outbreak is part of a report on 13 MERS-CoV cases, including four deaths, from Saudi Arabia between Oct. 15 and Oct. 29.

MERS is an upper respiratory viral illness caused by the MERS coronavirus, also known as camel flu, because it is mostly found in camels. The incubation period for MERS is approximately 2-14 days.

Most people who have been confirmed as having MERS-CoV infection have flu-like symptoms, including fever, coughing and shortness of breath, according to Liu Ting-ping (劉定萍), director of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Center.

Other symptoms may include chills, sore throat, myalgia, arthralgia, diarrhea and vomiting. Initial non-specific symptoms can progress to pneumonia.

MERS-CoV is known to spread easily in hospital settings, where the virus has been responsible for several outbreaks, and medical personnel should therefore keep their guard up against a possible incursion of the virus, according to Liu.

In addition, since MERS primarily causes flu-like symptoms, health care providers were also reminded to ask their patients whether they have traveled to Saudi Arabia or other parts of the Middle East area if they display flu-like symptoms.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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