June 4, 2015

Update for VUMC staff and faculty on Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus

Provided by Tom Talbot, M.D., MPH, associate professor of Medicine and Chief Hospital Epidemiologist, and Roger Dmochowski, M.D., professor of Urologic Surgery and executive director of Risk Prevention at the Vanderbilt Center for Clinical Improvement.

On May 20 the World Health organization reported the first case of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in South Korea. Additional cases have now been confirmed, and South Korea is currently experiencing the largest outbreak of MERS-CoV reported outside of Saudi Arabia. MERS-CoV is a virus similar to the SARS coronavirus and can cause severe morbidity and mortality.

In light of these reports, we remind all VUMC faculty and staff to include South Korea as a travel location of concern in patients with respiratory infection and to remember several important ways to minimize the spread of this infection:

Patient Screening: VUMC health care providers should evaluate all VUMC patients for potential MERS-CoV infection by assessing for the following signs/symptoms upon their arrival to our facilities:
Fever with symptoms of respiratory illness (e.g. cough or shortness of breath)
A) History of travel to an area affected by MERS-CoV (an up-to-date list of affected countries may be found on the Department of Infection Prevention website at www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/infectioncontrol. Select “Febrile Traveler Triage” in the left hand menu)
B ) Close contact with a symptomatic recent traveler from these areas
who also has fever and an acute respiratory illness

Patients who respond “yes” to these questions should be provided a surgical mask that they should wear immediately and be placed in an airborne isolation (negative pressure) room. The Department of Infection Prevention should also be contacted at 615-835-1205 immediately, 24 hours a day.

While the risk of MERS-CoV transmission remains very low in the United States, we must remain vigilant and cautious. For questions or additional information, please contact the VUMC Department of Infection Prevention at 615-936-0725 or via pager 615-835-1205.