Finally, I thought I’d take a brief look at the recently reported cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS. You may have heard about this in the news in recent weeks after a MERS outbreak spread in a limited way to some parts of the U.S. As usual, my goal is to break through the hype and find out what’s really going on. I went right to the CDC site and found a wealth of information there.

MERS is a Severe Respiratory Illness

mers-map-arabian-peninsulaMERS is caused by a corona virus and according to the CDC, most infected people develop severe respiratory symptoms and 30% of them die. Until recently, the virus outbreaks have been limited to the Arabian Peninsula. and neighboring countries. On May 2, though, there was a confirmed MERS case here in the U.S. followed quickly on May 11 with a second case. Both individuals were business travelers who recently returned from the Middle East.

The two cases were not linked to each other and both have fully recovered. There were also come instances in the second case of potential spread to healthcare workers here in the U.S. who came in contact with them. These cases have also resolved with mild symptoms and no deaths. In response though, the CDC released the following statement:

“The MERS situation in the U.S. represents a very low risk to the general public in this country. CDC and other public health partners continue to investigate and respond to the changing situation to prevent the spread of MERS-CoV in the U.S. We recognize the potential for MERS-CoV to spread further and cause more cases globally and in the United States.”

From all information the MERS virus does not transmit from person to person very readily and standard precautions including good hand washing habits all provide good protection. I’ll continue to follow this story and others like it and work to present you and the rest of the EMS community a voice of clarity in the media hype that so often accompanies these outbreaks.

Followup on the links to this news item and all the other articles and resources in this week’s episode show notes – Elderly at Increased Risk for Poisoning and Overdose and Episode 391.

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