Oakwood starts proactive education campaign to prevent MERS cases

Oakwood Healthcare is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) on a proactive education campaign to protect people in Michigan from a new respiratory illness.

Called Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the virus was first reported in 2012, according to the CDC. MERS originated in Saudi Arabia and that is where the majority of the confirmed cases have been documented. Of the 150 confirmed cases worldwide, 125 of those have been reported in Saudi Arabia, with
the remaining cases reported in nearby countries.

There have been no confirmed cases in the U.S.

Most people who have been confirmed to have contracted the MERS infection report flu-like symptoms: a high fever, cough and shortness of breath that leads to acute respiratory illness. Due to its high mortality rate—about 64 of the 150 people who have contracted the virus have died—health officials are taking steps to reduce the risk of infection.

Because we care for a large Middle Eastern population and in light of the recent Hajj Pilgrimage, Oakwood’s clinical staff has been advised to determine if patients have traveled to the Middle East recently, or cared for someone who has, if they present these symptoms. Infection Control and Infectious Disease should be immediately notified.

Oakwood has also issued travel recommendations to the community in order to prepare people traveling to or returning from the Middle East and is also preparing staff to be vigilant for potential cases of MERS. Oakwood has posted advisories in emergency departments, reinforced existing policies designed to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and hosted a table top regional exercise designed to ensure that health systems throughout the Detroit metro area are prepared for any potential outbreak of MERS.

The CDC advises standard respiratory illness precautions: frequent hand-washing with soap and water; covering mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; avoid sustained contact with ill people; clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often and avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose with unwashed hands.