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Beu Health Center Advising Campus Community Members Traveling to Middle East, Europe to be Aware of MERS-CoV

July 1, 2013


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MACOMB, IL -- As recent news stories have reported, cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, commonly referred to as MERS-CoV, are on the rise (see www.who.int/csr/don/archive/disease/coronavirus_infections/en/index.html).

Western Illinois University Beu Health Center Director Mary Margaret Harris advises individuals traveling to the affected regions of the world should be aware of this emerging pathogen. According to information about MERS-CoV from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): "Investigations are being done to figure out the source of MERS-CoV and how it spreads."

As of June 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported, since September 2012, there have been 77 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with MERS-CoV. In the June 26 report, WHO stated it has received reports of laboratory-confirmed cases originating in the following Middle Eastern countries: Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to WHO, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and the United Kingdom also reported laboratory-confirmed cases; with those cases, the affected individuals were either transferred there for care or returned from the Middle East and subsequently became ill. WHO adds that in France, Italy, Tunisia and the United Kingdom, "there has been limited local transmission among patients who had not been to the Middle East but had been in close contact with the laboratory-confirmed or probable cases."

"I think it's important to remember the number of cases so far has been few; however, MERS-CoV has a high mortality rate," Harris noted. "Although there are no cases to date in the U.S., we recognize we are part of a global community, and it's important to stay informed."

Harris added the CDC provides an informative overview website (see www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/overview.html), which includes some general question-and-answer information about MERS-CoV. Some of those points are listed below.

Q: Is CDC concerned?

A: Yes, CDC is concerned about MERS-CoV. The virus has caused severe illness in most infected people, and about half of them have died. Also, the virus spreads from person to person and has spread between countries. CDC recognizes the potential for the virus to spread further and cause more cases and clusters globally, including in the United States.

Q: Can I still travel to countries in the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries where MERS cases have occurred?

A: Yes. WHO and CDC have not issued travel health warnings for any country related to MERS.

For more information, see CDC's travel notice, "A Novel Coronavirus Called 'MERS-CoV' in the Arabian Peninsula." (see wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/coronavirus-saudi-arabia-qatar)

Q: What if I recently traveled to countries in the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries and got sick?

A: If you develop a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after traveling from countries in the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries, you should see your healthcare provider and mention your recent travel.

Q: How can I help protect myself?

A: CDC advises that people follow these tips to help prevent respiratory illnesses:

  • 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, or sharing cups or eating utensils, with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.

For the most up-to-date information, see the WHO's Global Alert and Response MERS-CoV website at www.who.int/csr/don/archive/disease/coronavirus_infections/en/index.html.

For more information about Beu's services, visit www.student.services.wiu.edu/beu.

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations