News / Health

    Hospitals on Watch for MERS, Plan for Emergencies

    Hospitals Watch Diseases, Plan For Emergenciesi
    X
    Carol Pearson
    May 23, 2014 1:08 AM
    The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, has infected more than 500 people since it was first identified in 2012. About 30 percent of those who contract it die. The steep increase in the number of cases in recent months, and the fact that people in Asia, Europe and North America have come down with the virus, have raised concern that the situation may worsen. VOA's Carol Pearson looks at how health officials are preparing for pandemics.
    Carol Pearson
    Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, has infected more than 500 people since it was first identified in 2012.  About 30 percent of those who contract it die. The steep increase in the number of cases in recent months, and the fact that people in Asia, Europe and North America have come down with the virus, have raised concern that the situation may worsen.  

    The last pandemic occurred in 2009, with the H1N1 influenza virus. The World Health Organization says MERS is a long way from becoming a pandemic. Most cases have been in Saudi Arabia, among people with close contact with MERS patients or with camels that carry the virus.

    However, a virus can change at any time, so officials like Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, who heads the Illinois department of public health, say there is need for concern.
    Countries reporting new MERS cases, 2014, May 13 updateCountries reporting new MERS cases, 2014, May 13 update
    x
    Countries reporting new MERS cases, 2014, May 13 update
    Countries reporting new MERS cases, 2014, May 13 update
    "It's a new virus.  It has a very high death rate, but we need to learn more about how easily it's transmitted, and what are some of the signs and symptoms," said Hasbrouck.

    Many hospitals already have plans to prevent the virus from spreading. At The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, it's Dr. Gabe Kelen's responsibility to ensure the plan covers all of the 46,000 people at the clinics and medical centers, as well as the university.

    “I’m not that concerned yet, however, for our level of preparation; we want to stay ahead of the curve. That should this happen; we’re not playing catch-up," said Kelen.

    This is not just for MERS, but for any contagious disease.

    "When anyone comes into the emergency department with an influenza-like illness, we already have a protocol to screen them and to test them and if we believe they may have a serious infection, they get isolated, they get a mask.  Anyone who goes in after to deal with that patient has certain precautions," he said.
     
    Doctors, nurses, even the cleaning staff, might have to wear gowns, gloves and special masks.

    During the H1N1 influenza pandemic, hospitals set up special clinics, some in tents outside the building, to diagnose patients suspected of having the flu. This practice could be reinstated to prevent the spread of a virus, and lower the chance it could mutate into something even more deadly.

    “The more often it [a virus] gets transmitted, the more the virus replicates.  The more the virus replicates and in different hosts, the more likely its genetic makeup may change," said Kelen.

    After the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, more than a decade ago, the world learned that an infectious disease anywhere is a health challenge everywhere, largely because of air travel.  Countries learned they had to share information about diseases in order to control them.

    Later this year, Saudi Arabia will host millions of religious pilgrims.  Health officials the world over will be carefully watching.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora