MERS alert issued

Following a cluster of recent Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) cases among healthcare workers in South Korea, the Centers for Disease Control issued a precautionary alert in the U.S. on June 18 with the aim of having hospitals in this country fully prepared should MERS surface here. To ensure that New York nurses are prepared in the event that a patient with MERS arrives in one of our hospitals, NYSNA’s Occupational Health & Safety representative has prepared a MERS Practice Alert available for download from this website: www.nysna.org/tags/nursing-practice-alerts. MERS was first identified and reported to cause severe acute respiratory illness in September 2012. It has caused infections worldwide, with 25 countries reporting cases to date. All known cases have been linked directly or indirectly through residence in or travel from nine countries on or near the Arabian Peninsula. It is believed that the virus is spread through an infected individual’s respiratory secretions, but the exact method of infection is not fully understood. Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment and no vaccine exists to prevent infection. While the general public in the U.S. is at very low risk, healthcare workers who treat a MERS-CoV patient are at risk of infection and must be well protected. According to the World Health Organization, more than 25% of reported MERS-CoV cases have been among healthcare workers. There have been several instances in other countries where MERS-CoV has spread within healthcare facilities, most recently in South Korea, where healthcare workers treated a patient who had returned from travel in the Arabian Peninsula without taking necessary precautions. As set forth in the Practice Alert, quick identification and isolation are key to protecting both healthcare workers and other patients.

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