Technology, best practices kept first case of MERS-CoV in U.S. contained

An Indiana hospital gave its staff, patients and visitors badges equipped with real-time locating system technology to quickly trace the 50 people who had contact with the MERS-CoV patient.

By Alex Cukan
The MERS coronavirus (CC/ u.s. National Institutes of Health)
The MERS coronavirus (CC/ u.s. National Institutes of Health)

MUNSTER, Ind., May 9 (UPI) -- All of the Indiana hospital employees who treated the first Middle East Respiratory Syndrome patient in the United States tested negative for the virus and technology and best-practices helped ensured the potentially deadly virus did not spread, the hospital said.

Dr. Alan Kumar, chief medical information officer of Community Hospital in Munster, Ind., told in an interview that the 427-bed hospital has a department dedicated to infectious diseases and the hospital relied on its standing procedures and policies to keep the virus contained. He said the infectious disease team remains current on best practices and keeps contagious patients isolated.


Last week, a male patient -- a U.S. healthcare provider who had been in Saudi Arabia and took a plane April 24 from Riyadh to London, then to Chicago and then took a bus to Indiana -- became ill and the next day went to the Community Hospital's emergency room. He was admitted to the hospital.

Although health officials said they do not know how MERS-CoV is spread from person-to-person, they do know it is not spread from casual contact but from close contact and in other countries where it has spread from person-to-person it spread to a family member or to a healthcare worker.


Community Hospital equips its staff, patients and visitors with badges equipped with real-time locating system technology by Versus Technology to quickly trace the 50 people who had contact with the MERS-CoV patient and tested them for the virus, Kumar said.

The 50 hospital staff who had been on contact with the patient were sent home for 14 days -- the maximum incubation time for MERS-CoV. At the end of the 14 days, they will be tested again and if still negative they will return to work.

In addition, the Community Hospital used its electronic medical records to determine who had visited or assisted the infected patient, Kumar said.

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"Every interaction with a patient is logged into the electronic medical records," Kumar told

"We keep an active log of every interaction -- even when housekeeping goes into a room, just to keep a running flow. When you run this many beds, you need a very sophisticated flow dynamic system."

The hospital also used its video surveillance system to double check it had not missed anyone that might have become infected, Kumar said.

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With the success of containing the first known case of MERS-CoV to reach the United States, the hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are preparing a paper to share the experience with other U.S. healthcare facilities.


The patient, whose identity has not been made public, is expected to be released to home isolation soon where he will remain until cleared by the Indiana State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control as no longer an infectious risk to the public. His doctors said he is in good condition and improving, a hospital statement said.

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