Laboratory Testing for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, California, USA, 2013–2014 - Volume 21, Number 9—September 2015 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC
Volume 21, Number 9—September 2015
Laboratory Testing for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, California, USA, 2013–2014
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been a global concern since its discovery in Saudi Arabia in 2012. As of April 29, 2015, >1,100 confirmed MERS cases and >420 associated deaths had occurred globally; all cases were linked to the Middle East (1). Importation of MERS-CoV by travelers from the Arabian Peninsula to regions outside the Middle East has been documented (2). In May 2014, the first 2 cases of MERS in the United States were identified in unrelated travelers from Saudi Arabia (3).
Each year, an estimated 16 million international travelers visit California (4), of whom 225,000 are visitors from the Middle East (5); thus, a risk exists for importation of MERS-CoV into California. Furthermore, global events such as the annual Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages draw 11,000 Americans to Saudi Arabia each year (6).
Because of the possible risk for disease transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization have issued MERS-CoV travel advisories for pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia (7,8). In the fall of 2012, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) addressed the risk of MERS-CoV importation and convened a working group composed of clinicians, laboratory staff, infection control experts, emergency operations staff, and information officers. This working group regularly reviewed the CDC and World Health Organization updates, scientific publications, and laboratory logistics, and took steps at the state level to prepare for MERS. CDPH developed and disseminated guidance on surveillance, specimen collection for laboratory testing, infection control, and contact tracing (9). A CDPH clinician was available around the clock 7 days a week to assist with individual suspected cases of MERS.
Ms. Shahkarami is a public health microbiologist specialist at the California Department of Public Health. Her main areas of work include molecular diagnostics and surveillance of respiratory viruses in California.
We thank Tasha Padilla, Kara Pham, Estela Saguar, Ricardo Berumen III, Chao-Yang Pan, Hugo Guevara, Anthony Moore, Christopher Anderson, and Rosie Glenn-Finer for their technical and epidemiologic support. We also thank local health departments for their assistance in investigations and surveillance.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Update: severe respiratory illness associated with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)–worldwide, 2012–2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2013;62:480–3 .
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- World Health Organization. World - travel advice on MERS-CoV for pilgrimages [cited 2015 May 7].http://www.who.int/ith/updates/20130725/en/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MERS in the Arabian Peninsula [cited 2015 May 7].http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/coronavirus-arabian-peninsula-uk
- California Department of Public Health. CDPH Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) information webpage [cited 2015 May 11]. http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/cder/Pages/MERS-CoV.aspx
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Case definitions [cited 2015 Mar 1].http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/case-def.html
- Lu X, Whitaker B, Sakthivel SK, Kamili S, Rose LE, Lowe L, Real-time reverse transcription-PCR assay panel for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. J Clin Microbiol. 2014;52:67–75 .
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Suggested citation for this article: Shahkarami M, Yen C, Glaser C, Xia D, Watt J, Wadford DA. Laboratory testing for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, California, USA, 2013–2014. Emerg Infect Dis. 2015 Sep [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2109.150476