Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Infection (MERS-CoV Infection)

  • Medical Author:

    Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP is a U.S. board-certified Infectious Disease subspecialist. Dr. Gompf received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, and a Medical Degree from the University of South Florida. Dr. Gompf completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of South Florida followed by subspecialty fellowship training there in Infectious Diseases under the directorship of Dr. John T. Sinnott, IV.

  • Medical Author: Lily N. Jones, DO
  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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What is the treatment for MERS-CoV?

Because MERS-CoV is caused by a similar virus as SARS, the management of MERS-CoV has been extrapolated from experience with the 2002 SARS outbreak and some limited experimental data. Like SARS, patients with MERS-CoV often require oxygen supplementation, and severe cases require mechanical ventilation and intensive-care-unit support. No medication has been proven to treat MERS-CoV, and treatment is based upon the patient's medical condition. Several medications have been tried in both SARS and MERS-CoV without conclusive benefits, and further research is to be done. Management of the individual with MERS is aided by infectious disease, pulmonary, and critical-care specialists.

What is the prognosis of MERS?

MERS is associated with a rapidly progressive severe respiratory illness, and mortality compared to the SARS-CoV outbreak of 2003 is very high. Since 2012, the MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia has slowly continued with a total of 933 individuals diagnosed with 401 deaths as of March 2015.

Is it possible to prevent MERS?

Fortunately, MERS-CoV does not appear to spread as easily or rapidly from person to person as the SARS-CoV outbreak of 2003. Travelers to the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding countries, and their close contacts, may protect themselves by taking simple measures that help to prevent the spread of germs. Frequent hand hygiene using soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoidance of close contact with sick people, and avoidance of touching one's eyes, nose, and mouth can prevent the spread of viruses. Caregivers of patients who are not hospitalized should perform frequent hand hygiene as stated above and wear a face mask for direct care until the patient has recovered.

In the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding countries where MERS-CoV has been found, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends precautions in handling live camels or their raw meat and dairy products. Anyone who does so, should frequently wash hands and consider using respiratory protection, as well as barriers to protect skin and clothing. Clothing worn during handling of camels or their products should be kept away from household contacts and washed daily. All products intended for human consumption should be cooked thoroughly or pasteurized.

In the healthcare setting, suspected cases of MERS should be placed in airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIR) in which room exhaust is recirculated under high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration. If not available, the patient should be given a face mask and should be isolated in a single-patient room with the door closed. Staff assigned to the patient, and the patient's movements outside of the isolation area, should be minimized. Before entering the isolation room, health-care workers should wear a gown, gloves, eye shield, and a fit-tested NIOSH-certified disposable N95 filtering respirator; if an N95 mask or respirator is unavailable, a surgical mask should be worn. Before exiting the room, personal protective equipment should be discarded in the room. Hand hygiene must be performed with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after exiting.

Local public-health authorities should be consulted promptly when a MERS-CoV diagnosis is considered. Preventing an outbreak requires identification of the first infected patients as soon as possible before the infection spreads further. Those who have been exposed to an infected person should be carefully monitored for fever or respiratory symptoms. Exposure is defined as living with or caring for an infected person, being within 3 feet of the infected person, and exposure to bodily fluids or direct physical contact with an infected person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not mandate quarantine measures for exposed individuals who are otherwise healthy.

Public-health authorities have taken steps to assure preparedness. In the U.S., the CDC continues to monitor the international situation and issues travel advisories for U.S. travelers to affected areas. The CDC may detain individuals arriving in the U.S. or traveling between states who are believed to be infected with a disease subject to quarantine, including MERS, as of July 31, 2014, per amended U.S. Executive Order 13295.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/13/2015

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  • MERS - Symptoms

    What symptoms did you experience with your MERS infection?

  • MERS - Risk Factors

    Did you have any MERS risk factors prior to infection?


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