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MERS-CoV makes an appearance in the United States

Health care practitioners should be prepared for a potential MERS outbreak now that two cases have been found in the U.S.
Health care practitioners should be prepared for a potential MERS outbreak now that two cases have been found in the U.S.

The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been a health concern since it was detected in 2012, but patients with the virus were largely in Saudi Arabia. This illness is believed to have originated there, killing about 30 percent of patients who contracted it. The virus found its way to the United States earlier this month, according to reports from CNN.

We have extensively talked about this international concern, knowing that there was a possibility it would make its way to the U.S., and now the day has come. Since the first case was identified in Indiana, another confirmed case of MERS has been found in Florida. Both men who are getting treated for the virus are health care workers in Saudi Arabia visiting the U.S.

At this time, health care workers at the Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando, Florida are taking this situation seriously, following their business continuity plan to ensure that practitioners don't contract MERS. A large portion of MERS cases have been found in medical personnel who worked closely with patients.

"We want to be extra cautious," Dr. Antonio Crespo, infectious disease specialist and chief quality officer for the P. Phillips Hospital, told NBC News. "These two people were in contact with the patient without a mask."

The patient stayed at home and didn't visit any tourist sites before entering the hospital, further reducing the likelihood of a MERS outbreak. Those who may have been exposed to the virus have been informed and tested for MERS. As of May 13, the patient is located in a negative pressure isolation room, which runs the potentially infected air through a series of vents and filters before it goes outside, a Florida NBC affiliate explained.

"When we go and visit the patient — I went this morning — I have to wear a special mask called an N-95 (respirator). I have to wear a gown and gloves. Once we get out of the room we dispose of everything," Crespo added.

Now that MERS has found its way to the U.S., hospitals and doctors' offices may want to consider brushing up on their action plan against these types of diseases. MERS is similar to SARS, where patients experience a fever, shortness of breath or coughing. Business continuity consultants can help prepare table top exercises to ensure that all departments are ready if an emergency like this occurs.