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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia State Researchers Find MERS, SARS Viruses Linked to Hospitals

A recent comparison of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) cases by researchers from the School of Public Health at Georgia State University has shown that a significant number of both were linked to hospitals.

More than 13 percent of MERS cases during the recent outbreaks in Saudi Arabia and South Korea involved healthcare workers. For SARS, the percentage of healthcare worker patients ranged from 19 percent in the 2003 outbreak in China to 57 percent in the 2003 outbreak in Vietnam.

However, there were differences in exposure patterns that could point to changes in hospital practices since 2003, when SARS cases swept across several Asian countries and Canada, such as rapid case detection and strict adherence to infection control measures. The differences also could point to differences in the two coronaviruses’ transmission mechanisms, which warrants further study, the researchers stated.

Dr. Gerardo Chowell, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, was the lead author on “Transmission characteristics of MERS and SARS in the healthcare setting: a comparative study,” which was published recently in BMC Medicine. Georgia State MPH student Ms. Fatima Abdirizak is a co-author of the report.

“Our findings confirm the importance of super-spreading events in the healthcare setting for the transmission dynamics of both coronaviruses, an effect that may be even more pronounced for MERS than SARS,” the report stated.

The study also said the outbreak of MERS last summer in South Korea was “a wake-up call emphasizing the need for flexible epidemiological surveillance systems and strong public health infrastructure to quickly detect and stamp out potential outbreaks, including in countries with no prior MERS experience.”