Healthcare News & Insights

CDC: Take steps now to prepare for MERS virus

Frontline healthcare providers and U.S. healthcare facilities need to be at-the-ready to evaluate and treat patients for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced recently. 

481216457In a news conference, the World Health Organization stopped short of declaring MERS an “international public health emergency.”

As you know, MERS is caused by a virus, specifically the coronavirus, which puts it into the same group of illnesses as the common cold. Problem is, it’s far deadlier than the common cold — 30% of those infected die from complications of the disease, according to the CDC.

And according to Shots Health News from NPR, while the virus doesn’t appear to be highly infectious in people’s homes, it’s easily spread in hospitals.

Checklists for preparedness

Health officials expect to see more cases imported into the U.S. That’s why American hospitals are now working to recognize the flu-like disease early and keep it from spreading.

To aid healthcare workers and hospitals, the CDC has developed two checklists that identify key actions that can be taken now to enhance preparedness for MERS-CoV infection control.

Here are some key areas healthcare facilities should review to prepare for MERS-CoV:

  • ensure your hospital’s infection control policies are consistent with the CDC’s MERS-CoV guidance
  • know how to quickly appropriate isolation and infection practices
  • review procedures for screening and work restrictions for exposed or ill healthcare providers
  • review procedures for lab submissions for MERS-CoV testing
  • develop plans for visitor restrictions if MERS-CoV is circulating in the community, and
  • appoint specific personnel to communicate with public health officials and release information to healthcare workers.

Healthcare providers should take these steps to prepare for the transport and arrival of patients infected with MERS:

  • assess and triage acute respiratory infection patients
  • ensure safe patient placement
  • direct visitors to secluded area
  • stock and distribute personal protection equipment (PPE) for healthcare personnel
  • use source control measures for patients (facemasks), and
  • know reporting protocols for potential MERS-CoV case.

The CDC has developed a Resources for Preparedness toolkit to assist hospitals, physicians and emergency management personnel prepare for and reduce the risk of infectious diseases.

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