A little over a year ago on May 9th, 2014, the 2nd case of Middle East respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus (MERS Co-V) in the U.S. appeared at the Dr. P Phillips Hospital in Orlando, FL. We offered Xenex’s services to eliminate any remaining pathogens from the environment. After a quick call between the hospital and the Xenex science team, one of our trainers arrived a few days later and disinfected areas in the hospital where the patient had been. Shortly before we learned of the 2nd case, Voice of America contacted Xenex to ask Dr. Stibich to speak on the threat of MERS in the US.
The disease manifests similarly to flu, can also cause diarrhea, and 35% of known cases have been fatal. This type of virus is related to the SARS virus of 2002-2004. While not much is known about the virus’s hardiness, studies suggest it can persist in the environment anywhere between 3 and 72 hours.
Globally, MERS has been observed in Europe, Africa, the Middle East (its presumed source), China, Malaysia, and Thailand among many other smaller nations. The modern ability to travel quickly between continents presents a challenge to healthcare officials seeking to halt its spread, since the symptoms can resemble an upper respiratory infection: fever, cough, difficulty breathing.
While much remains to be learned about MERS, a few facts seem to be consistent among patients:
- Dromedary camels have been found carrying the identical virus, and are assumed to be the original transmission source to humans exposed to them (perhaps by visiting a zoo or petting exhibit).
- All cases occurring outside of Saudi Arabia were traced back to exposure to camels, or exposure to a sick patient.
- Human-to-human transmission has occurred almost uniquely in healthcare settings. There have been NO transmissions in the airport.
- An incubation period of about a week has been observed from exposure time until symptoms develop.
- Hospitals following basic infection control best practices (droplet precaution level as one would apply to influenza cases) have minimized transmissions, and it’s believed that the epidemic can be stopped if animal-to-human transmissions can be ended.
The most current, accurate information about MERS can be found at the World Health Organization website. Should any other cases pop up in the U.S., Xenex will be on the front line to offer our support with infection prevention efforts.