Which virus-specific lab studies are used for the diagnosis of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) pneumonia?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021
  • Author: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP; Chief Editor: John J Oppenheimer, MD  more...
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The first US case of MERS-CoV was confirmed on May 2, 2014. [72] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued the following recommendations for the evaluation and control of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the United States [73, 74] :

  • Testing for MERS-CoV can be performed simultaneously with testing for other respiratory pathogens

  • Confirming the presence of another respiratory pathogen does not rule out the need to test for MERS-CoV in patients who develop fever and pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) within 14 days after leaving the Arabian Peninsula or nearby regions or following close contact with someone with fever and ARDS who recently had been to this area

  • If ARDS occurs in a cluster of patients, tests for common respiratory pathogens should be performed and the cases reported to local and state public health departments. If health-care providers are in the cluster and the cause of ARDS remains unexplained, patients should be considered for MERS-CoV testing even if travel-related disease exposure has been ruled out

  • Laboratory confirmation of MERS-CoV requires a positive PCR assay of 2 or more specific genomic targets or 1 positive target with sequencing of a second; even if an etiology other than that for MERS-CoV is found, a patient whose disorder meets these requirements can still be classified as a probable MERS-CoV case

  • Travelers to Saudi Arabia should avoid contact with ill persons, wash their hands often, and seek medical care if they develop fever with cough or shortness of breath during their trip or within 14 days after returning home

  • Standard, contact, and airborne precautions are recommended for hospitalized patients with confirmed or suspected MERS-CoV infection

  • Federal isolation and quarantine are authorized for patients with confirmed or probable MERS-CoV infection until they are no longer contagious

  • See Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) for more information.

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