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An epidemic on slow boil, MERS-C0V continues to cross international borders and find susceptible human hosts. The latest is an 82-year-old man who is in critical condition in a hospital in the United Arab Emirates, the World Health Organization reports. The infection represents the first documented case of MERS-C0V in the country.
As of July 12, 2013 there have been 82 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 45 deaths since the novel virus emerged last September. Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.
Health care providers are advised to maintain vigilance. Recent travelers returning from the Middle East who develop severe respiratory illness should be tested for MERS-CoV. Specimens from patients’ lower respiratory tracts should be obtained for diagnosis where possible. Clinicians are reminded that MERS-CoV infection should be considered even with atypical signs and symptoms, such as diarrhea, in patients who are immunocompromised.
Health care facilities are reminded of the importance of systematic implementation of infection prevention and control. In particular, those provide care for patients suspected or confirmed with MERS-CoV infection should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to other patients, health care workers and visitors. Hospital transmission has already been documented and appears the novel virus could become a major threat to hospitals if it ever emerges as a global pandemic.
All WHO member states are reminded to promptly assess and notify WHO of any new case of infection with MERS-CoV, along with information about potential exposures that may have resulted in infection and a description of the clinical course. Investigation into the source of exposure should promptly be initiated to identify the mode of exposure, so that further transmission of the virus can be prevented.
WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.
WHO recently convened its newly formed MERS-CoV emergency advisory committee. Comprised of international experts from all WHO Regions, will meet again this week.