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The California Department of Public Health Continues Efforts to Protect California from Potential Spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) 

Date: 6/15/2015 
Number: 15-042 
Contact: Anita Gore, Orville Thomas (916) 440-7259 

SACRAMENTO – Since the emergence of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has been working with local health departments statewide to protect California from the potential spread of MERS. The importance of these efforts is highlighted by the recent outbreak of MERS in several South Korean hospitals.

“The risk for MERS in California remains very low and is related to recent travel to affected regions overseas. The emergence of MERS in South Korea should remind patients to tell health care providers about any travel, while medical professionals should ask their patients about recent travel,” said Dr. Karen Smith, CDPH director and state health officer. “This is important for MERS and for many other illnesses that can be associated with travel.”

No MERS cases have occurred in California. However, CDPH advises patients who may develop a fever and respiratory illness (such as cough or shortness of breath) within two weeks after traveling from the Middle East* or visiting a health care facility in South Korea to call ahead to their health care provider before seeking care and to mention their recent travel so that appropriate precautions can be used.

MERS is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that was first detected in the Middle East, and has been imported to other countries by returning travelers. The South Korea outbreak started when a traveler returning from the Middle East became ill, visited several health care facilities and spread the virus before precautions to prevent spread were implemented. Spread of MERS in South Korea has been limited to health care facilities and close contacts such as family members. There is no evidence of spread in the community at large in South Korea. 

CDPH has provided information to health care providers about MERS and has updated that information with new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDPH has also been working with health care providers and local health departments to monitor for possible MERS cases.

To date, 63 persons in California with possible MERS have been reported to CDPH. All have tested negative for MERS. CDPH continues to provide laboratory testing for MERS for suspect patients. For more information about MERS visit CDPH’s Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) Information Webpage or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

*Countries include Bahrain; Iraq; Iran; Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza; Jordan; Kuwait; Lebanon; Oman; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Syria; the United Arab Emirates (UAE); and Yemen.
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