Stanford officials are monitoring global health concerns about Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus – commonly referred to as MERS – and in particular its spread in recent months to South Korea.
While there have been no reports of infection on the Stanford campus or in the broad local community, officials want to make sure that faculty, staff and students who are traveling to or hosting visitors from the affected areas are aware of resources available if they have questions or concerns.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MERS is a viral respiratory illness that is new to humans. It was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to several other countries. To date, there have been only two confirmed cases of the disease in the United States and none were related to the outbreak in South Korea. Most people infected with the virus developed severe acute respiratory illness, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Many of them have died.
The primary risk appears to be to those who have traveled to the Arabian Peninsula and have had close contact with individuals who have confirmed cases of MERS; have developed symptoms after coming in contact with camels or camel products on the Arabian Peninsula; or who have used clinics and hospitals in South Korea that have been associated with the spread of the infection.
"Our campus infection control committee is monitoring the situation and we feel there is no indication at present for a change in our recommendations for travel to Korea or for welcoming guests from Korea," said Dr. Ira Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center.
For visitors to campus from these regions, the risk is very low. There are no restrictions, and visitors are encouraged to practice usual health-related precautions. Should someone get sick while visiting campus, they should seek health care at any emergency department or urgent care facility, but let the staff know that they are visiting from South Korea or an Arabian Peninsula country.
The CDC is not recommending that Americans change their travel plans because of MERS.
All Stanford travelers are encouraged to register their travel plans with the university's Office of International Affairs, so that the university can assist in the event of a crisis
International SOS (ISOS), one of the service providers to Stanford's International Travel Assistance Program, can provide helpful pre-travel information as well as assistance during travel
Individuals who are planning a trip to the affected areas, especially those with underlying health issues who are likely to require medical attention during travel, are encouraged to contact ISOS for a briefing before they travel. ISOS contact information for Stanford affiliates can be found at the bottom of the Office of International Affairs website.
Moreover, all travelers can take these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of germs and protect against colds, flu and other illnesses, including MERS:
Be sure you are up-to-date with all of your shots and, if possible, see your healthcare provider at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to travel to get any additional shots.
Visit the CDC's Travelers' Health website for more information on healthy travel.
Do not travel if you are sick.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid close contact with sick people.
If you become ill while traveling:
Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash.
Avoid contact with other people to keep from infecting them.
Contact your doctor if you develop a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after being in a healthcare facility in South Korea.
Tell your doctor about your recent travel and presence in a healthcare facility before you go in for an appointment.
For more information and resources about your health while traveling, visit the Personal Health section of the Office of International Affairs website.