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National agency calls for steps to prevent spread of MERS to Canada

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WINNIPEG - A national health agency is calling for steps to prevent the spread of the respiratory illness known as MERS to Canada.

Infection Prevention and Control Canada is urging health-care workers to use personal protective equipment if working with a feverish, coughing patient.

The agency says this is in light of cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus being detected in the United States.

It also says appropriate screening of patients presenting with cough and fever must include a travel history, not only of the patient, but of anyone around the patient who may have travelled in the previous 10-14 days.

The agency further says patients presenting with suspected or confirmed MERS infection must be assessed in a timely manner and placed on special precautions.

In the U.S., three people have been diagnosed with an infection from MERS.

An American doctor who came to Canada after being exposed to the virus in a Florida hospital where one of the patients was being treated was allowed to return home after testing negative for the disease.

Since the first known MERS infections occurred two years ago, roughly 650 cases have been reported by 19 different countries.

Saudi Arabia has reported the vast majority — 540 cases and 175 deaths.

"The sudden increase in cases in Saudi Arabia is felt to be due mainly to lapses in infection prevention and control practices," IPAC Canada said late Wednesday.

The World Health Organization concluded last week that there was no need to declare MERS a global health emergency despite the recent spike in cases.

IPAC Canada, based in Winnipeg, is a voluntary association of infection prevention and control professionals.

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