Hospitals Are Ground Zero

The MERS coronavirus has now spread from the Middle East to home town USA.

Since both US victims of this resurgent respiratory virus - one in Indiana and another in Florida - are healthcare workers, all eyes have turned to nosocomial transmission. In some locales nosocomial transmission has outpaced the former frontrunner for the MERS transmission prize: camel spit.

Proper infection control, therefore, is hugely important. The CDC recommends special airborne infection rooms, masks, eye protection, gowns and gloves. I remember taking these precautions when the SARS epidemic came through town. In some cases, patients were incredibly sick and it was scary; other times folks with SARS had the sniffles and we made a big deal over very little. Let's hope that as we learn more about MERS, the early reports of 30% case fatality will turn into less sobering statistics. 

Along the way, it's good that the macho culture of medicine has been changing. When I was in training, it was common and even admirable for doctors to work sick. I remember idolizing a medicine resident who did morning rounds with an IV pole at his side. Yet now we know - how could we not have clued in then?!  - that this risks spread of infectious diseases to our fragile patients.

In a nice story just out today titled "Second MERS Case Shows Hospitals Are Ground Zero for MERS," Maggie Fox of CBS News quoted me and others about MERS infection control. 

Posted on May 14, 2014 .