Global Alert and Response (GAR)

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – United Arab Emirates

Disease outbreak news
11 February 2015

On 3 February 2015, the IHR National Focal Point of the United Arab Emirates notified WHO of 1 additional fatal case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection.

Details of the case are as follows:

A 38-year-old, non-national male from Abu Dhabi developed symptoms on 29 December. As symptoms worsened, the patient presented to the emergency room of a hospital on 29 January and was admitted to the hospital on the same day. Investigation of history of contact with camels is ongoing. He had no comorbidities and no history of exposure to other known risk factors in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms. The patient was in critical condition, intubated in ICU and passed away on 6 February.

Contact tracing of household contacts and healthcare contacts is ongoing for the case.

Globally, WHO has been notified of 977 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at least 359 related deaths.

WHO advice

Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

Infection prevention and control measures are critical to prevent the possible spread of MERS-CoV in health care facilities. It is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV early because like other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of MERS-CoV are non-specific. Therefore, health-care workers should always apply standard precautions consistently with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis. Droplet precautions should be added to the standard precautions when providing care to patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection; contact precautions and eye protection should be added when caring for probable or confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection; airborne precautions should be applied when performing aerosol generating procedures.

Until more is understood about MERS-CoV, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons are considered to be at high risk of severe disease from MERS‐CoV infection. Therefore, these people should avoid close contact with animals, particularly camels, when visiting farms, markets, or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating. General hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals and avoiding contact with sick animals, should be adhered to.

Food hygiene practices should be observed. People should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.