Health officials tell US doctors to watch for MERS

CDC is advising doctors to be on the lookout for patients presenting with MERS. This is after an outbreak of MERS in South Korea. Doctors should be asking patients with severe respiratory illness if they have recently traveled. Testing for MERS should be carried out for sick patients who have visited a South Korea hospital within the last two weeks of becoming sick.


MERS first detected in 2012 (middle east), specifically Saudi Arabia with more than 1,200 cases confirmed since. This includes 2 traveler to the US (last year). It's thought that it spreads through sneezing and coughing, but it's not as easily spread as the flu.

South Korea Mers Cases

South Korean Business man returned from trip to the middle east and started to feel sick with fever and wheezing. He visited 4 hospitals before doctors figured out it was MERS. This effectively spread MERS throughout South Korea.

This case is unique because MERS is usually bad at spreading. This man may have been a “super spreader”: someone who carries an extremely large amount of the virus in his lungs.

Infecting at least 20 others with MERS. So far there have been 11 deaths and 126 infected since the outbreak began. As of now outbreak seems to have leveled off.

Outbreak in South Korea is the biggest to happen outside Saudi Arabia. This disease is most comparable to SARS. Like SARS, MERS seems to be spread between humans through close contact.

  • Through saliva or coughing
  • Infection pathway is still unclear

It starts out like the common cold with symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. But can lead to severe complications like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

To more severe like pneumonia and kidney failure. Over 1/3 of people reported with MERS have died.

People are frustrated with the South Korean government’s response. Feel that the government has done too little, too late.

Not very contagious, so should not become a public health threat, but hospitals should have been alerted sooner and MERS precautions taken. Citizens want better infection control

MERS Quick Facts

  1. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness
  2. MERS is caused by a coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV)
  3. MERS affects the lower respiratory system
  4. begins with flulike symptoms and can progress to severe pneumonia
  5. Virus can cause coughing, fever, and pneumonia
  6. Often fatal
    1. Especially for those with compromised immune systems or elderly

MERS has no cure and there is no vaccine or available antiviral treatment. The disease first appeared in human in 2012. Started in Saudi Arabia and has spread from the Persian Gulf to France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia, and Britain etc. It is still unknown where it came from and exactly how it is spread. Theory is that it has jumped from camels to humans.


  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.