Check out APHA’s Get Ready fact sheet on MERS to protect yourself and others from the disease. Photo by APHA

Check out APHA’s Get Ready fact sheet on MERS to protect yourself and others from the disease. Photo by APHA

As a response to the ongoing threat posed by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, or MERS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday released updated guidelines and information on the evaluation and testers for the disease.

The Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Health has identified 107 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS since June 10, which CDC calls “the largest single outbreak of MERS-CoV outside of the Arabian Peninsula.” David Kuhar, MD, medical officer from the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC, discussed the updates in an audio conference for health professionals.

“For eye protection, a disposable face shield can be used that should be discarded after patient contact,” Kuhar said. “Reusable goggles are also acceptable as long as cleaned and disinfected as per manufacturer’s instructions. The idea here is that droplets could enter the eyes through coughing. The eye protection is an added measure of safety to minimize the risk of transmission.

“There are no case reports of transmission occurring because of a lack of eye protection, but this is just to (err) on the side of caution.”

MERS is a viral respiratory disease that was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. Symptoms include fever, coughing, shortness of breath and respiratory illness.

CDC recommends that health care providers ask patients about their history of travel exposure to health care facilities if they meet the revised considerations for patient under investigation. The updated criteria for patients under investigation are now available on CDC’s website.

According to Susan Gerber, MD, team lead for the Division of Viral Disases at CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, cooperation between health care providers and local and state public health departments is vital in addressing MERS, especially considering the current lack of information.

“Decisions should be made with public health departments,” Gerber said. “I can’t emphasize that enough. It’s very important to have that engagement in potentially diagnosing a patient.

“We are missing some important data on the natural history of infection for MERS-CoV. We do not have precise data to guide decision making. It is known to have evidence of MERS-CoV RNA that could go on for weeks. We don’t know if it’s important for the transmission of the virus.”

Check out APHA’s Get Ready fact sheet on MERS to protect yourself and others.