Emergencies preparedness, response

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

Disease outbreak news
18 May 2015

On 13 May 2015, the National IHR Focal Point of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) notified WHO of 1 additional case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection.

Details of the case are as follows:

A 29-year-old, non-national male from Abu Dhabi tested positive for MERS-CoV on 12 May. The patient works as a truck driver and frequently transports camels from Oman to UAE. He travelled to Ibri city, Oman on 6 May and transported camels to Abu Dhabi on 9 May. As part of the national policy of testing all imported camels for MERS-CoV, on 9 May, laboratory examinations were carried out on the camels that the truck driver was transporting. The animals tested positive for MERS-CoV on 10 May. This triggered an investigation of the truck driver, which started on the same day. Following hospital admission, the patient tested positive for MERS-CoV on 12 May. He was asymptomatic at the time of laboratory testing. The patient has no comorbidities and no history of exposure to other known risk actors in the 14 days prior to detection. Currently, he is asymptomatic in a negative pressure room on a ward.

Contact tracing of household contacts and healthcare contacts is ongoing for the case. The National IHR Focal Point of the United Arab Emirates informed the National IHR Focal Point of Oman to undertake the necessary investigation back in Oman.

Globally, WHO has been notified of 1118 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at least 423 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.