As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (nCoV), or the newly designated “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV) continues to grow in and around the Arabian Peninsula, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their travel notice to the area May 24.
Although the federal health agency does not recommend that anyone change their travel plans because of these cases of the novel coronavirus, and the World Health Organization (WHO) does not currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions, CDC recommends that US travelers to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula monitor their health and see a doctor right away if they develop fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath. They should tell the doctor about their recent travel.
Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 44 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 22 deaths.
Read more updates on novel coronavirus at The Global Dispatch
The UN agency says they have received reports of laboratory-confirmed cases from the following countries in the Middle East: Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). France, Germany, Tunisia and the United Kingdom also reported laboratory-confirmed cases; they were either transferred for care of the disease or returned from Middle East and subsequently became ill. In France, Tunisia and the United Kingdom, there has been limited local transmission among close contacts who had not been to the Middle East but had been in close contact with the laboratory-confirmed or probable cases.
Saudi Arabian officials are also continuing the investigation into the outbreak that began in a health care facility since the beginning of April 2013 in Al-Ahsa. To date, a total of 22 patients including 10 deaths have been reported from the outbreak.
The WHO also said Friday they will help and advise Saudi Arabia concerning dealing with the outbreak and the influx of people expected to the 2013 Hajj pilgrimage this October.
The CDC says that nCoV or MERS-CoV was identified in 2012 as the cause of respiratory illness in people. The new virus is a beta coronavirus. It is different from any other coronavirus previously found in people.
The following questions were asked and statements made in a WHO press statement earlier this month:
We know this virus has infected people since 2012, but we don’t know where this virus lives. We know that when people get infected, many of them develop severe pneumonia. What we don’t know is how often people might develop mild disease. We also know that most of the persons who have been infected so far have been older men, often with other medical conditions. We are not sure why we are seeing this pattern and if it will change over time.
There are many other things that we don’t understand. For example, how are people getting infected? Is it from animals? Is it from contaminated surfaces? Is it from other people? Finally, we don’t know how widespread is this virus, both in this region and in other countries.
The greatest global concern, however, is about the potential for this new virus to spread. This is partly because the virus has already caused severe disease in multiple countries, although in small numbers, and has persisted in the region since 2012. Of most concern, however, is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact this novel coronavirus can transmit from person-to-person. This pattern of person-to- person transmission has remained limited to some small clusters and so far, there is no evidence that this virus has the capacity to sustain generalized transmission in communities.
The CDC advises travelers to these areas, to prevent contracting nCoV, to take everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs and protect against colds, flu, and other illnesses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Be sure you are up-to-date with all of your shots, and if possible, see your healthcare provider at least 4–6 weeks before travel to get any additional shots.
- If you are sick cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash.
- Avoid contact with other people to keep from infecting them.
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