Managing the MERs Outbreak

Mar 19
Author:Ash Natesh
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Between the year 2012 and 2018, there were 2229 confirmed cases of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which was reported to WHO. 83% of this outbreak was reported by Saudi Arabia. The most vulnerable demographic to the disease were males above the age of 60 with an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, hypertension and renal failure.. To date, 791 individuals have died due to the MERS outbreak.

Transmission of the MERS virus has occurred in health care facilities in several countries. The spread of the disease had occurred from patients to health care providers, and between patients in a health care setting, before the virus was even diagnosed. It is generally hard to diagnose people with MERS-CoV early without the use of testing because symptoms of the disease are non-specific, which makes it harder to identify. Another important thing to note with the disease is the time the symptoms start to show, it could take up to 2 – 14 days after being infected to experience any symptoms, which would make the infected person an easy transmitter of the disease.

Infection prevention and control measures are critical to prevent the possible spread of MERS‐CoV in health‐care facilities. Facilities that provide care for patients suspected or confirmed to be infected with MERS‐CoV should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus from an infected patient to other patients, health‐care workers, or visitors. Health‐care workers should be educated and trained in infection prevention and control and should refresh these skills regularly.


Over the past few years, enhanced infection prevention and control efforts have tamped down the number and size of the outbreaks in Saudi Arabian hospitals.

An Interim report provided by the Saudi Arabia Government states the following safety and infection prevention measures to abide by during the attack:


Patients presenting with acute respiratory symptoms should be triaged as a high priority and asked about recent overseas travel from the Middle East or any other region where MERS is occurring.


If there is history or persistent symptoms that could prove to be MERS, the patient must be:

  1. Assessed in a negative pressure room, if available; or
  2. In a single well-ventilated room in an area away from other patients. The patient should be asked to wear a mask, if practicable, and observe cough etiquette and hand hygiene; or
  3. Spatial separation from other patients, with respiratory precautions as above. The room should have its own toilet and bathroom facilities


  • Contact local state/territory communicable disease branch/centre to discuss further management and testing.
  • Maintain standard, contact and airborne precautions
  • Which  include:  Hand hygiene according to “5 Moments of Hand Hygiene”.  
  • Use of appropriate PPE to be put on when entering patient room: Gloves (non-sterile, disposable) ; Gown(fluid resistant, disposable);  Mucous membrane (respiratory/ eye) protection

(Source: Information from$File/interim-infection-prevention.pdf)

Don’t miss your chance to speak with Leisa Bridges, Staff Health Manager, Ramsay Health, who will be presenting her case study on ‘Managing the MERs outbreak in Saudi Arabia & building a database to support staff health needs’ at the 5th Annual Infection Prevention & Control Conference on the 9th April 2019 in Melbourne.

Leisa has extensive experience in working with managing the MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia working first hand with the Ministry of Health.

Submitted by Ash Natesh

Ash Natesh

Ash is the Content Marketer at Criterion Conferences. Writing and sourcing content is all part of her day to day routine. She can’t stop drinking coffee, other than coffee her interests lie in Music, long walks amidst the mountains, Dance, Anime, Science Fiction and all things nerdy!

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