Bioethics Blogs

MERS: Another Lesson in Quarantine and Health Disparity

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

At the G7 meeting this week, the developed nations which compose the Group of 7 pledged to “wipe out Ebola.” With over 11,000 Ebola-related deaths worldwide since March 2014, this certainly is worth public health efforts and funding.

While the “world leaders” focus on Ebola, which of course made small incursions in to the U.S. and Europe, a new epidemic lurks on the horizon—MERS. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was first reported in September 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It can infect anyone of any age and its method of transmission is not well understood. The primary methods appears to be animal to human. Exposure to camel products and meat may be involved. Human-to-human transmission is limited, requiring very close contact. Caregivers of infected patients, thus, are at higher risk

Over one-third of people infected with MERS die from the disease. Worldwide there have been close to 1,236 cases reported with 445 deaths in 25 countries according to the World Health Organization. Saudi Arabia has reported 689 cases with a death toll of 283. On May 20, South Korea became the latest country hit with this disease and now reports 87 cases with 6 deaths. The United States had 2 cases, both health care workers who had worked in Saudi Arabia. Both were treated and discharged.

Although neither the WHO nor the CDC are proposing a travel ban, travel seems to be the method of transmission to new regions. The first case in South Korea was caused by a man who became ill after a business trip to the Arabian peninsula.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.