Local hospital prepared for MERS virus - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local hospital prepared for MERS virus

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WATERLOO (KWWL) - Dr. Tim Horrigan is the chief medical officer at Allen Hospital in Waterloo. He says the hospital has known about the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS virus since last summer. Recently cases have been discovered in patients in Illinois, Indiana, and Florida.  

"It's a respiratory virus that originally was thought to just be isolated to the Arabian peninsula but now it's been seen in the U.S," said Horrigan.

Questions still remain whether MERS can spread through casual contact with someone who's infected, but experts say those most at risk are healthcare workers who treat patients.

Horrigan says symptoms could resemble the flu, but it could become severe.

"The difficulty is it can seem just like a regular flu, but it also can go on to be more severe respiratory failure where people need to be on a ventilator," said Horrigan.

Horrigan says staff members at Allen are not concerned the virus will come to Iowa, but says the hospital has everything in order in case of an epidemic, including isolation rooms where the air circulates outside of the building.

"We've practiced on table top exercises what to do in case of an epidemic and we're prepared. We have rooms in the hospital on every medical floor for respiratory isolation in case we need those," said Horrigan.

Horrigan says people shouldn't panic, but remember infection control like wash your hands, get sleep, and stay home if you are sick. He says the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is finding some of the people exposed to the virus probably fought it off on their own and never even knew they had it.

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