With all the attention recently on the Middle Eastern respiratory system (MERS) virus, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at what the CDC knows. MERS-CoV has been found in populations living within the Arabian Peninsula. It creates severe upper respiratory symptoms, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath, and flu-like symptoms. In more severe cases, renal failure and pneumonia have occurred.
Currently, the CDC reports 30% mortality among those infected. Incubation is thought to be 2 to 14 days from time of exposure. The virus is believed to have originally come from animals and has been found in camels and bats.
MERS has now made it to the continental United States, with the the first case diagnosed on May 2, 2014. Because we know that close contact with infected individuals presents a risk of transmission, careful observance of universal precautions, hand washing, and flu precautions is essential. Patients presenting with flu-like symptoms and respiratory illness should be considered infectious and treated as such.
The high mortality and morbidity associated with MERS, especially in populations with comorbidities, make this virus significant for nurses and healthcare personnel.
Lisa Lockhart, MHA, MSN, RN
Nurse Manager, Specialty Clinics
Alvin C. York VA Medical Center