An Emerging Travel Disease- MERS (Article)

Disease prevention and control has become an important part of life in the age of globalization and frequent international travel. Since children frequently have opportunities for international travel, parents need to stay vigilant and informed about new, emerging infectious diseases. Right now, the Korean peninsula is struggling with an emerging respiratory disease that researchers think jumped from camels in the middle east to humans. This new virus goes by the name MERS-CoV (short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus). It is currently a hot topic at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to recent information, the virus and associated sickness is making its way from the Middle East and into much of Europe, including France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Korea, and occasionally, the United States. Currently, the Korean peninsula is struggling with the biggest outbreak of the MERS-CoV.

​First reported in 2012, MERS-CoV causes the acute illness known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which causes patients to develop a severe respiratory infection with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. According to the CDC, over 54% of recognized patients have died from this illness. Initially, there were no reports of the illness in the United States. This changed in May 2014, when two unrelated cases were reported in Florida and Indiana. Even in light of these reports, no travel advisories have been issued and the CDC still states that MERS “represents a very low risk to the general public.” Nevertheless, the CDC developed special MERS-CoV diagnostic kits for state health departments. In addition, local health authorities have been advised to report potential patients who appear to have symptoms indicative of MERS.

Fortu​nately, MERS remains a low risk to Americans adults and children but things could change, especially if your family has traveled to or through the Middle East or Asia. Information and recommendations change quickly so before you or your children plan travel abroad to any international destination, consult your child’s pediatrician and make sure you checkout the CDC’s fantastic travel site on the internet at The latest health alerts are posted here. Parents should also continue to ensure their youngsters follow normal preventive actions such as frequent hand washing, elbow coughing and sneezing, avoiding hand shaking, followings local water consumption guidelines, and making sure their children are up-to-date on their scheduled doctor’s visits; these measures are ultimately your child’s best defense against many infectious diseases, from the flu and all the way to MERS.
Smo Notes:

Written collaboratively by Norman Spencer and Paul Smolen M.D.


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