MERS first US incident could put more travelers at risk

Posted on May 12, 2014

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced May 2 the first reported case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in the United States was found in Indiana.

The limited information given so far explains the infected person is an American male who works in the health care industry. Anne Schuchat, the assistant surgeon general with the U.S. Public Health Service and the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told CNN the person had recently worked in Saudi Arabia to provide health care.

The Indiana State Department of Health said the person traveled from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to London, and then to Chicago, where the man took a bus to Indiana. The incident has many companies worried about their corporate travelers and fear of getting infected.

Protecting workers from infectious diseases

When companies send workers across borders to work in foreign countries, organizations have to follow a duty of care plan to protect their workers. One of the best ways for companies to prevent their workers from developing infectious diseases is provide detailed information on what areas and types of cuisine to avoid.

Corporate security departments need to inform travelers about their destination with up-to-date information on the country's current events. According to CNN, many outbreaks of MERS in the Middle East are related to camels. The infection could spread through camel's milk or meat.

While many Americans don't have direct experience with this foreign food source, corporate travelers should still be forewarned about the possibility of infection with certain foods at their arrival location. According to Risk Management Magazine, destinations should be heavily researched to avoid any incidents, threats, crime reports, terrorism and virus outbreaks.

Officials believe virus did not spread

The CDC and the Illinois State Department believe the virus did not transmit from the traveler coming back into the states at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, CNN reported.

"There is no reason to suspect any current risk to travelers or employees at O'Hare Airport at this time," said Bechara Choucair, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

However, many are still concerned about the risks of the virus since there have been 262 reported cases of the coronavirus in 12 different countries, and 93 people have died, CNN reported.

The outbreak should encourage businesses to take extra care in protecting their corporate travelers when they are working in other countries.

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