Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Global Disease Surveillance System

The first confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the United States raised concerns about the rapid spread of the disease if there is no disease surveillance system in place. MERS infection was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. MERS morbidity and mortality is alarming in which its clinical features resembles severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) with the mortality rate of approximately 60% for those who was hospitalized with severe acute respiratory condition. The federal and state health officials released the information about the first U.S. MERS case on May 2, 2014 which is an example of the importance of disease surveillance in the public health system. The patient is a health care provider who flew from Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh to the United States, with a stop in London. He took a bus to Indiana after landing in nearby Chicago. On April 27, he began experiencing shortness of breath, coughing, and fever. Medical staff members who came into direct contact with this patient was placed in full isolation at Community Hospital in Munster, then were taken off duty and put in temporary home isolation. MERS have no known treatments, and symptoms can take up to 14 days to occur. The exposed medical staff members will be allowed back to work after the incubation period ends and their laboratory results are confirmed to be negative for the virus. The most important factor that is needed to be considered is the probability of rapid situational changes on the progression of human-to-human transmission. Anticipating this probability will be dependent upon the quality of surveillance systems to monitor symptomatic and mild infections. These include the network structure of infections within the MERS-CoV clusters. Understanding the pandemic potential of this virus is paramount to saving lives, therefore, it is important to acknowledge the significance of the necessary requirements for a sustained globalized environment in which the continued commitment of richer countries to make it a moral obligation to help institute required reforms, policies, structures and systems required for public health and disease surveillance. It is important to develop counter-measures in the event MERS-CoV starts evolving, and mutate that will make it easier to infect humans. Mathematical epidemiologists use reproduction number (R0) to measure the average number of infections in a fully susceptible population caused by one infected individual. In this scenario, R0 of this virus will need to be increased which will then pose a relevant challenge for estimating R0 from a series of outbreaks distributed through time. In a bioterrorism standpoint, it is critical for investigators to explore the probability for this virus to be mutated in a laboratory setting. Enhanced surveillance is needed to trace active contacts, as well as vigorous monitoring of the MERS-CoV animal hosts and transmission routes to human beings within and beyond the target population. As long as the transmission properties remain small, the rapid identification, and isolation of cases with a basic R0 will keep human-to-human transmission under control. Early detection of milder, and asymptomatic cases is paramount for the reduction of case fatality rate, since mortality rate of this disease is related to late stage diagnosis and comorbid medical conditions. Globalization has its positive and negative impacts, making the world smaller and increase its vulnerability to infectious disease outbreak. Renewed commitment to public health, and strong international partnerships are essential to strengthen national and international cooperation in infectious disease prevention and control.


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Man treated for deadly MERS virus in Indiana improving: state … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/04/us-usa-health-mers-idUSBREA4208620140504?feedType=RSS

Man treated for deadly MERS virus in Indiana improving: state … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/nationworld/sns-rt-us-usa-health-mers-20140502,0,6981423.story

WHO calling in the experts on MERS-CoV | Hospital Infection … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://hicprevent.blogs.ahcmedia.com/2013/07/08/who-forms-emergency-committee-to-prepare-for-mers-cov-emergence/

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