A new study has suggested that it is possible to stop Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, from reaching pandemic or even epidemic status. In three new studies in the current issue of the, researchers reported on clinical outcomes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), how long patients will shed virus during their infections, and how the Sultanate of Oman is dealing with cases that have appeared there.
An editorial in the same issue discusses how the relatively high percentage of infections has been hospital-acquired, which reduces the possibility that MERS-CoV, which exhibits a 40 percent fatality rate and over 97 percent of the cases have occurred in the Middle East, will reach pandemic or even epidemic status.
This research team notes that although healthcare exposure to infection was the most important risk factor for the development of MERS-CoV infection, in the ICU setting, where more strict infection control measures were applied (single rooms, dedicated 1:1 nurses, and better compliance with hand hygiene and isolation precautions), only one healthcare worker acquired the infection and no patient-to-patient transmission occurred.
Researcher Ziad A. Memish said that these findings, if confirmed by the prospective systematic collection of respiratory samples, would highlight the importance of applying prolonged infection control measures in severely ill patients with MERS-CoV in the healthcare setting.
Lead author I.S. Al-Abaidani said that strengthened infection control practices and having a powerful active surveillance program for acute respiratory illnesses are key to the rapid and prompt response for emerging respiratory infections.
According to the editorial, with most infections occurring in hospital settings, there is a large potential to reduce transmission through early identification of possible MERS-CoV infected patients thereby leading to early isolation of these patients, ideally at the arrival point in the hospital.