Welcome to the MERS War Room
Outbreaks come with their own infrastructure these days. Ever since the days of Ebola, world health officials have been building up an apparatus for rapid response in the event of an epidemic. This network is extensive and well-equipped, and includes special teams dedicated to sequencing DNA and answering questions about vector, reservoir and origin.
This story in the Los Angeles Times captures the mood and timbre of current efforts to fight MERS, the latest coronavirus, perfectly. Just a glimpse of what’s being done:
Public health officials, meanwhile, are readying their response on the ground. The World Health Organization is tracking the outbreak. In June, representatives from the United Nations agency traveled to Saudi Arabia to review the kingdom’s response to MERS, including stepped-up efforts to identify infected people and new measures to prevent infections in hospitals. Saudi Arabia has limited the number of visas for the annual hajj pilgrimage, though officials there say construction is the reason.
The CDC response team is working with other countries and with medical facilities in the U.S. to make sure procedures are in place to combat MERS. Hospitals have received guidelines for assessing and isolating patients to keep the virus contained.
It is an impressive tandem worldwide effort, and a nice commentary on what’s possible when medical professionals around the globe cooperate in real time. And we may have the vigilance of these folks to thank for one optimistic fact: no MERS cases have yet appeared in the U.S., and it’s possible the virus will never reach these shores. But if it ever did, you can be certain that a phalanx of ENT specialists and epidemiologists would marshal a response in a matter of hours.