Local hospitals cautious of MERS virus

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- The MERS outbreak has become more serious according to the World Health Organization.

MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is caused by a coronavirus. The second U.S. case was confirmed in a traveler from Saudi Arabia to the U.S.

The CDC are working with hospitals to prepare for patients with this symptoms.

"Whenever we get information like this from the CDC we're obviously alerted and we want to make sure we can take care of our patients locally," said Dr. Shane Speights with St. Bernards Hospital.

There have only been two cases of MERS reported in the U.S. so Speights said people in northeast Arkansas should not be alarmed unless they've traveled to parts of the Middle East.

"Were they in contact with someone whose been sick or have they recently traveled to an area where this disease is prevalent," he said.

St. Bernards Hospital and NEA Baptist Hospital are making sure their doctors are prepared for patients who may come in with symptoms similar to MERS. William Skip Baker is the director of emergency services at NEA Baptist Hospital and said there is a protocol in place for these types of situations.

"We would immediately do the normal respiratory precautions as in mask people on the way to each particular room," Baker said

To make sure no one else is exposed to the virus. Melissa Green is the manager of infection prevention at NEA Baptist and said they would also take other preventive measures.

"Once we have a confirmation then we would put his patient in isolation, airborne isolation plus contact isolation,"Green said.

According to the CDC, 30 percent of people who were infected with the MERS virus, died.

"Currently there is no vaccine, currently there is no medication used to treat this law so that's also worrisome," Speights said. "This can actually take 48 hours to 14 days to actually show symptoms so it's really important to have  that history."

The CDC suggest people wash their hands often and clean frequently touched surfaces.

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