The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging health care organizations to prepare for new and emerging infectious disease threats such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). MERS-CoV was first reported in the U.S. on May 2, 2014, in Indiana. A second case was confirmed on May 11. Both cases are health care workers who recently worked in and traveled from Saudi Arabia. The CDC says all hospitals should be equipped and ready to care for a limited number of infected patients as part of routine operations and to potentially care for a larger number of patients in the context of escalating transmission. Facilities should outline plans for administrative, environmental, and communication measures and define the individual work practices that will be required to detect the introduction of MERS or other emerging infectious diseases, prevent spread, and manage the impact on patients, the facility and staff. The CDC provides the following resources to help organizations prepare:
MERS is a virus that is new to humans and was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. There have been 538 confirmed cases of MERS in 14 countries, of which 145 have died. Most have developed severe acute respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath. There is no available vaccine or treatment recommended for the virus.
During on-site surveys, Joint Commission surveyors may ask:
- What types of precautions are being taken to identify potential patients with MERS and how you organization is protecting your employees.
- If there are any patients with MERS or suspected of having MERS at your facility.
- To limit their exposure to any patient exhibiting signs and symptoms of MERS or other flu-like symptoms when completing tracer activities (i.e., in isolation). They may also request a mask if they are concerned about potential exposure to a MERS patient.
The Joint Commission’s Infection Prevention and Control (IC) standards have requirements that are relevant to the MERs situation including: IC.01.03.01 The organization identifies risks for acquiring and transmitting infections and IC.01.06.01 The organization prepares to respond to an influx of potentially infectious patients. In addition, The Joint Commission has an Emergency Management portal which provides pandemic preparedness information, and an Infection Control portal which includes monographs, podcasts and other resources on a variety of infection control topics. (Contact: Lisa Waldowski, firstname.lastname@example.org)