CDC tells doctors: Watch out for MERS

Disease may be coming to America

CDC issued a warning last week urging hospitals and doctors to be on alert for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus after a recent MERS outbreak in South Korea.

MERS has infected more than 1,200 people since it was first identified in 2012, and killed more than 400 people. More than 125 new MERS infections, and at least 11 deaths, have been linked to a traveler who visited the Middle East before returning to South Korea on May 4.

Many of the people who have been sickened in South Korea's recent outbreak include health care providers who had treated MERS patients or immunocompromised hospital patients.

WHO blames hospital missteps for MERS spread

Seeking to contain the outbreak, South Korean officials have closed more than 2,000 schools and quarantined more than 3,000 people in the past few weeks.

In last week's warning, CDC reminded health care providers:

  • To ask patients about whether they've recently traveled to South Korea or the Middle East; and
  • To isolate suspected patients and quickly test them for MERS.

Researchers say they do not yet understand how MERS is transmitted, but believe that it can spread through close interpersonal contact. There are no known cases of person-to-person transmission of MERS in the United States (Fox,, 6/12; Goldschmidt, CNN, 6/11; Szabo, USA Today, 6/12).

The takeaway: As the MERS outbreak in South Korea continues to spread, CDC warned providers to be on the lookout for signs of the disease.

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