(RxWiki News) The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been causing infections in the Middle East for months, but has not reached American shores. Still, American health officials are acting quickly to prepare for the virus's possible spread. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued emergency approval for a new diagnostic test aimed at detecting MERS.
"Wash your hands with soap and water."
According to the FDA, the test will be used to detect MERS in patients with symptoms of the virus and who have traveled to countries where they could have been exposed.
The FDA reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will manage the distribution of the test to laboratories.
The approval followed a statement from US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, in which it was determined that MERS poses a threat to American public health, and in particular is a threat to US citizens living abroad.
MERS has caused no infections on US soil, but cases have been identified in Saudi Arabia, Italy, France, Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
According to the latest counts from the World Health Organization (WHO), 82 cases have been identified across the globe since September 2012. These infections have resulted in 45 deaths.
CDC reported that most of the MERS patients developed severe acute respiratory illness. Symptoms like cough, fever and shortness of breath have been common.
The high fatality rate (death) has increased global concerns about the virus. However, much is still to be learned about MERS, and investigations are ongoing.
WHO is not currently recommending any travel restrictions, trade restrictions or any special screening at borders in response to the MERS outbreak. The organization has requested vigilance from both healthcare providers and travelers returning from the Middle East who develop severe respiratory symptoms.
Public health offices worldwide, including CDC, are currently investigating the virus and echoing WHO's call for vigilance.
"CDC recognizes the potential for the virus to spread further and cause more cases and clusters globally, including in the United States," CDC reported.