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Be Aware: Potential for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

There has been a recent increase in cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Arabian Peninsula. MERS, caused by a coronavirus (MERS-CoV), is a viral illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It presents as a severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The illness is associated with high mortality. There appears to be seasonal variation; case counts rose sharply in spring of 2013 and 2014.

Imported cases of MERS were identified in the United States in spring 2014. There is potential for imported cases again this spring. It is important to be alert to the possibility of MERS to take proper precautions to prevent the spread of infections.

MERS should be suspected in patients who meet the following criteria:

Fever (>38°C) and pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome

AND EITHER

•           History of travel from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula within 14 days before symptom onset

OR

•           Close contact with a symptomatic traveler who developed fever and acute respiratory illness within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula

OR

•           Is a member of a cluster of patients with severe acute respiratory illness (e.g., fever and pneumonia requiring hospitalization) of unknown etiology in which MERS-CoV is being evaluated.

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