Healthcare authorities say public risk of MERS is low

MERS is low

Health officials have said that the risk of contracting MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) for tourists coming to Orlando –where the second case of the virus in U.S. soil has been confirmed- is ‘negligible.’ Moreover, assistant surgeon general with the U.S. Public Health Service and director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Dr. Anne Schuchat remarked that the risk to the general public is low. As if to confirm their words, so far the only people who have been confirmed or suspected of having MERS are healthcare workers. Both the Orlando case and the one preceding it in Indiana are healthcare providers working in Saudi Arabia who flew back to America to visit family. The two patients are otherwise unrelated; in fact one is an American citizen while the other isn’t.

Additionally, 20 healthcare staff members from the Orlando Regional Medical Center and The Dr. P. Phillips Hospital are under observation –the patient visited the former facility on an unrelated errand, and was later admitted to the latter. Two workers in particular presented respiratory symptoms 24 and 72 hours after coming in contact with the patient; one was admitted to the same hospital where he works, while the other was sent home along with the other eighteen for 14 days –the period of incubation of the MERS virus- after being tested. They are being monitored via telephone for symptoms of this condition, which include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Pneumonia
  • Body aches
  • Fever of 100.4 F or higher

The test results will be available in a few days, and if everything seems to be in order they will come back to work in the 14th day to be tested again. According to medical director for occupational health at Orlando Health Dr. Ken Michaels, all team members are doing just fine. Infectious disease specialist and chief quality officer for the Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando Dr. Antonio Crespo adds that the risk of transmission from the patient is believed to be very low because his symptoms were moderate and he was not coughing. Dr. Kevin Sherin of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County echoes this belief by saying that the risk for people in the waiting room or the radiology area at Orlando Regional Medical Center is negligible.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has not issued recommendations to change travel plans to the countries with cases –such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Quatar, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, and Lebanon- or travel-associated cases –like the United Kingdom, France, Tunisia, Italy, Malaysia, and Turkey- but it will be posting CDC advisories at over 20 American airports. These advisories include the following recommendations:

  • Washing hands with soap and water.
  • Avoiding spreading germs by touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people.

Updating all shots and when possible seeing a doctor 4 to 6 weeks before traveling to get any required shots.

In addition to that, sick people should:

  • Cover mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid contact with other people so as to not infect them.
  • Call a physician if symptoms of MERS appear within a period of 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula (including Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen).
  • Asking people they have been in contact with to monitor their health for 14 days after the last time they were around each other.

Following these pieces of advice, as well as visiting the CDC’s Traveler’s Health and Getting Healthcare Abroad websites, is essential in keeping the public risk of the MERS virus low. Also visit Discount Medical Supplies for the latest on this and other healthcare topics.