Global Alert and Response (GAR)

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

Disease outbreak news
24 May 2015

On 18 May 2015, the IHR National Focal Point of the United Arab Emirates notified WHO of 1 additional case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection.

Details of the case are as follows:

The patient is a 33-year-old, non-national male from Al Ain. He has a history of contact with MERS-CoV infected camels imported from Oman (see DON of 18 May). A sputum sample tested positive for MERS-CoV on 17 May, whereupon the patient was admitted to hospital. He was asymptomatic at the time of laboratory testing. He has no comorbidities and no history of exposure to other known risk factors in the 14 days prior to detection. Currently, the case is still asymptomatic and in stable condition 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 about this case. Investigation of human contacts of the MERS-CoV infected camels is ongoing in Oman.

Globally, WHO has been notified of 1135 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at least 427 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.