Leading infectious disease, public health and emergency preparedness experts are calling for the United States to take additional steps to prepare for MERS-CoV and other emerging infections. Public health and healthcare systems cannot afford to become complacent in preparing for infectious disease threats. Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and UPMC Center for Health Security are recommending system-wide preparedness for potential outbreaks.
MERS-CoV: A Novel Respiratory Virus Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a virus that causes serious respiratory illness, originating in Jordan and first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The virus is new to humans and can cause severe acute illness and death. There is currently no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment available, so prevention and early care is vital to containment. To date, most outbreaks have arisen within or through travel to the Arabian Peninsula. However, beginning in May 2015, a chain of transmission occurred in the Republic of Korea. Most of the infections in Korea could be linked to healthcare facilities that cared for ill patients. The recent significant outbreak in South Korea has highlighted the need for America’s public health and healthcare systems to strengthen routine infection control and prevention capacity.
In 2014, the United States had two imported cases of MERS. These cases were both healthcare workers who had worked in Saudi Arabia and were quickly diagnosed and contained with no secondary transmission. United States health systems must be prepared for additional imported cases as Americans travel to the Arabian Peninsula.