Emergencies preparedness, response

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – United Arab Emirates

Disease outbreak news
21 September 2017

On 23 August 2017, the national IHR focal point of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reported one additional case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) infection.

Details of the case

Detailed information concerning the case reported, a 78-year-old male residing in Al Ain city, United Arab Emirates, can be found in a separate document (see link below).

Globally, 2081 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV including at least 722 related deaths have been reported to WHO.

Public health response

The Ministry of Health has identified and is following health care and household contacts. Laboratory testing for symptomatic and high-risk family contacts and health care workers is underway.

WHO risk assessment

MERS-CoV causes severe human infections resulting in high mortality. Close direct or indirect contact with infected dromedaries is the source of human infections. MERS-CoV has demonstrated the ability to transmit between humans. So far, human-to-human transmission has occurred mainly in health care settings.

The notification of additional cases does not change the overall risk assessment. WHO expects that additional cases of MERS-CoV infection will be reported from the Middle East, and that cases will continue to be exported to other countries by individuals who might acquire the infection after exposure to animals or animal products (for example, following contact with dromedaries) or human source (for example, in a health care setting). WHO continues to monitor the epidemiological situation and conducts risk assessment based on the latest available information.

WHO advice

Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns. Infection prevention and control measures are critical to prevent the possible spread of MERS-CoV in health care facilities. It is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV early because like other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of the disease are nonspecific.

Therefore, healthcare workers should always apply standard precautions consistently with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis. Droplet precautions should be added to the standard precautions when providing care to patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection; contact precautions and eye protection should be added when caring for probable or confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection; airborne precautions should be applied when performing aerosol generating procedures.

Until more is understood about MERS-CoV, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons are considered to be at high risk of severe disease from the infection. Therefore, these people should avoid close contact with animals, particularly camels, when visiting farms, markets, or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating. General hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals and avoiding contact with sick animals, should be adhered to.

Food hygiene practices should be observed. People should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.