A coronavirus, like SARS, is no laughing matter, and the people at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are taking it with extreme seriousness. So serious in fact that the CDC held a general update on 5/6/14 for clinicians on what’s known as MERS-CoV, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.
The CDC has an information site for the general public, travelers and health care workers here and the summary points are below.
- MERS-CoV is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
- About 30% of people confirmed to have the virus have died.
- No vaccine or treatment is available at this time.
- There are laboratory tests available to identify the virus.
- Most people confirmed to have MERS-CoV develop a severe acute respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
- Some infected people only had mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
- All cases have so far been linked to six countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula.
- All cases outside the peninsula have occurred in travelers from that area.
- The virus has spread from infected individuals to others through close contact. Close contact involves prolonged face-to-fact contact, often through situations like a hospital or home care setting.
- Risk from close contact is much higher than the risk of infection due to being in a plane with someone who has the virus.
- At this point the virus has not been shown to spread in a sustained way from person to person in any community.
- The incubation time of the virus (from exposure to symptoms) is about two weeks.
- It is not clear whether people in the incubation period can pass on the virus to others.
The situation is still evolving but at this time there is no limitation on travel. It is advised that those traveling to the Arabian Peninsula follow proper hygiene and seek medical care if they develop fever, cough or shortness of breath. Travelers returning from the Arabian Peninsula should seek help if within 14 days of their return they develop fever, cough or shortness of breath, it is expected that more cases will be identified in travelers returning from the Arabian Peninsula
Based on CDC criteria, which includes spread, severity and impact, MERS-CoV remains at a Level 1. At this point there is no immediate concern but the CDC will continue to monitor the situation closely.