Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness that can spread from person to person through close contact, causing fever, cough and severe shortness of breath that can be life-threatening. No cases of MERS have been identified in Mississippi.
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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, where infection led to severe acute respiratory illness; about 30% of those who were infected died. This virus has spread through countries in the Arabian Peninsula by close contact with those who are ill – typically by caring for or living with an infected person. Importantly, there is no evidence of sustained spreading in normal community settings.
MERS in the United States
The first U.S. case of MERS was confirmed in a traveler from Saudi Arabia to the U.S. About a week later, a second U.S. case was confirmed in a traveler who also came from Saudi Arabia.
The risk of MERS to the general public is now considered very low.
If you are traveling in the Middle East, use standard hygiene practices: wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and stay away from those who may be ill. If you develop fever and symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath within 14 days after traveling near the Arabian Peninsula, you should call a doctor right away. More about prevention »
What MSDH Is Doing
MSDH has issued advisories to laboratories and healthcare providers in the state about the risks of illness, ways to prevent and control infection, and who may be at risk for infection. We will continue to provide information and updates to healthcare facilities and providers.
The Mississippi Public Health Laboratory (PHL) has the capacity to test for the MERS virus, and has developed a Specimen Submission Guide for the collection and submission of samples for testing.
The Mississippi State Department of Health's Office of Epidemiology is monitoring this situation and receiving frequent updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For Healthcare Providers
Information Sheet for Healthcare Providers
This document summarizes the current MERS situation for healthcare providers in printable form.
Patients who should be evaluated for MERS infection
Healthcare professionals should evaluate patients who meet the following criteria for MERS-CoV infection:
- Fever and pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (based on clinical or radiologic evidence) 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 (not necessarily pneumonia) 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 in consultation with state or local health department (more details below).
- Close contact of a confirmed or probable case of MERS