Educating Patients About MERS

JUNE 23, 2015
Pharmacists can play an important role in counseling patients on the prevention and common symptoms of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Most individuals infected with MERS have developed severe respiratory illness, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath.1 Additional symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and kidney failure. There have also been deaths associated with MERS.1
 
MERS infection is thought to spread through respiratory secretions, such as coughing or close contact. In light of this, pharmacists should counsel patients to wash their hands often, avoid close contact with those infected, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
 
In the United States, there were 2 reported cases of MERS in Florida and Indiana in May 2014.1 Both cases occurred among health care professionals who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia.
 
Since May 2015, the Republic of Korea has been investigating an outbreak of MERS, which is the largest known outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula.1
 
Among those who should be tested for MERS are patients who:
  • Develop a fever and respiratory illness symptoms within 14 days after traveling from a country in or near the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Had close contact with an individual showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area.
  • Develop these symptoms within 14 days after being in a health care facility in the Republic of Korea.1
There is currently no vaccine to protect against MERS, and there are no antiviral therapies available for it, so treatment generally includes care to support vital organ functions. 
 
References:
  1. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/features/novelcoronavirus/. Accessed June 23, 2015.


Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2
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