Expert talks about MERS
Marc Mazade, an Infectious Disease specialist at Cook Children’s, first heard about Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at a presentation last year.
While Dr. Mazade says the attack rate of MERS seems low compared to other respiratory illnesses, he does advise certain precautions if traveling overseas.
“Returning travelers who develop signs of illness should discuss with their healthcare provider their full travel itinerary, exposures they may have noted during travel, and activities in which they participated while traveling,” Dr. Mazade said. “For a physician, the key to a prompt diagnosis of any potentially serious disease like MERS is making the connection that a patient or family has traveled recently to the Arabian Peninsula or other area where an outbreak has been documented.”
The CDC reports “most MERS-CoV cases have been reported in adults (median age approximately 50 years, male predominance), although children and adults of all ages have been infected.” Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal said that severe disease can occur in children with underlying conditions.
First, Dr. Mazade suggests those who are traveling from the U.S. to other countries to always check the CDC website for health-related travel advisories before making travel plans. Six to eight weeks before visiting overseas, Dr. Mazade advises people to receive a travel clinic consultation from their physicians.For more information, read the CDC's tips on traveling smart.
Dr Mazade said a travel clinic consultation will help determine if travel vaccines or malaria prophylaxis are necessary, as well as provide:
- An opportunity to receive counselling about other health risks a traveler might face.
- Whether to buy travel insurance or not.
- How to register a travel itinerary with the State Department to get a replacement passport in the event that one is lost or stolen.
- What items to take and what to avoid.
“We consider fever in a returning traveler to be a serious concern and encourage travelers to stay in touch with their physician about any health problems occurring after traveling,” Dr. Mazade said. “Visiting other countries can be exciting. Staying healthy and being aware of risks when traveling will keep the memories pleasant.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported the first case in the United States of MERS to be transmitted from one person to another.
The CDC states, the first U.S. Case of MERS was confirmed on May 2, 2014, after someone traveled from Saudia Arabia to the U.S. On May 11, 2014, a second U.S. “imported case” occurred, again from Saudia Arabia. The third case came as a direct result of an Illinois resident who had contact with the first case.
According to the CDC, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV.
The CDC says MERS “represents a very low risk to the general public in this country,” but will continue to monitor the situation and provide recommendations as necessary. At this time, no vaccine against MERS exists.