Dr. Molinari from THE DENTAL ADVISOR responds: MERS-CoV Outbreak Spreads to South Korea

The largest outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) cases outside Saudi Arabia was recently found to have spread to South Korea. To date, 166 MERS-CoV infected individuals, including 24 deaths, have been reported.  Over 5,900 contacts are being monitored by public health agencies and containment measures have been enacted.

Results of epidemiological tracking investigations suggest that most likely MERS-CoV came from an animal source. Camels have been found to harbor the virus and it is possible some people became infected after contact with these animals. However, the majority of MERS cases have been attributed to human-to-human transmission, with camels as the likely major reservoir. Occupational risks for healthcare providers are present and clusters of cases in health care infections have been traced to provision of unprotected care to MERS patients.

As the number of cases and deaths continue to increase, questions about infection control practices in patient treatment settings must be addressed. Since it is not always possible to identify patients with this respiratory illness early on, it is important for dental health care workers to consistently use standard precautions with all patients.  Strict adherence standard, contact, and airborne precautions that apply for any patient with respiratory infection should be utilized. These include droplet precautions when providing care to any patients with acute respiratory symptoms.  For detailed information refer to http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/infection-prevention-control.html.