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WHO cautions against MERS-CoV, calls for strong surveillance

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned against the sporadic case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and re-emphasised strong surveillance for acute respiratory infections and carefully review any unusual patterns.

The caution from the WHO came after the international health agency was notified in late April about a case of MERS-CoV in a 34-year-old male from Al Dhahirah Governorate in the Sultanate of Oman.

According to the WHO, “The case had a history of direct contact with animals including dromedaries, sheep and goats at his family farm. As of April 28, a total of six close community and 27 healthcare workers had been listed as contacts and were followed for 14 days from the date of last exposure with the case. No secondary cases have been reported to date.”

The epidemiology of the disease suggests MERS is a viral respiratory infection caused by a coronavirus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Infection with MERS-CoV can cause severe disease resulting in mortality.

The WHO report called for strict surveillance as mild cases of MERS-CoV may be missed by existing surveillance systems.

The report called for infection prevention and control (IPC) in healthcare settings. “Human-to-human transmission of MERS-CoV in healthcare settings has been associated with delays in recognising the early symptoms of MERS-CoV infection, slow triage of suspected cases and delays in implementing IPC measures. IPC measures are therefore critical to prevent the possible spread of MERS-CoV between people, particularly in healthcare facilities.”

“There was no history of contact with similar cases, no history of travel nor previous hospitalisation. However, the patient has a history of direct contact with animals including dromedaries, sheep and goats at his family farm.”

“Humans are infected with MERS-CoV from direct or indirect contact with dromedary camels, who are the natural host and zoonotic source of the MERS-CoV infection. MERS-CoV has demonstrated the ability to transmit between humans,” the report says.

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