Tennessee releases an "ALERT" to healthcare providers in the Volunteer State

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Protesters wear masks as a precaution against the MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, virus as they attend a rally against government's labor policy in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, June 7, 2015. A fifth person in South Korea has died of the MERS virus, as the government announced Sunday it was strengthening measures to stem the spread of the disease and public fear. The letters at headbands read " Patriotic martyr" (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) - CBS NEWS

In response to a Korean outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, commonly known as MERS Co-V, the Tennessee Department of Health has issued an alert to healthcare providers. The alert issued Friday, June 12, urges clinicians to ask their patients about recent travel, to look for evidence of the illness in patient assessments and to share their findings and information with public health officials.

"While we remain vigilant and ready to respond rapidly should the need arise, at this time there are no known cases of MERS Co-V in Tennessee," said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. "Our health care partners have been asking the critical travel history questions for many months and we are simply reminding them to heighten their index of suspicion and to remain operationally ready to assess any such patient."

For more information about the current situation in Korea and China, see www.who.int/csr/disease/coronavirus_infections/risk-assessment-3june2015/en/.

MERS Co-V is a respiratory illness first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia; it is now known to exist in more than 20 countries. Those infected with the viral illness may develop severe respiratory issues accompanied by fever, shortness of breath and coughing. MERS Co-V can be fatal.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at http://health.state.tn.us/.

From CBS News:

A total of 87 people in South Korea have been infected by MERS since last month in the largest outbreak outside the Middle East. About 1,870 schools have closed and more than 2,000 people are isolated at their homes or state-run facilities after having contact with patients infected with the virus.

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Departing from its earlier policy, the government on Sunday disclosed the names of the 24 hospitals where the MERS patients have been diagnosed or had been treated before their condition was confirmed. This will allow people who have visited those facilities in recent weeks to report themselves if they are showing symptoms similar to MERS-related illnesses, officials said.

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