In the wake of the MERS-CoV outbreak in Korea, are health professionals ready to respond?

In the wake of the MERS-CoV outbreak in Korea, are health professionals ready to respond?

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that was first described in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. More recently, an outbreak was reported in South Korea in 2015. While no cases have been reported in Taiwan, to date at least 26 countries have been affected by MERS.

The “International Training Course on Molecular Diagnosis for MERS-CoV” was successfully held at the Center for Infectious Disease Control and Prevention in Tainan City, Taiwan during August 12-14, 2015. Co-hosted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) and the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC), a total of 17 professionals from 9 countries across the Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia regions including Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Papua New Guinea, joined the training course.

The goal of the training course was to assist countries in equipping laboratory professionals with the tools necessary to respond to the MERS-CoV infection and to strengthen laboratory diagnostic capacities.  The training course was designed to meet with all core capacity requirements described in the International Health Regulations (2005) and the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Action Packages. By the end of the training course professionals were able to promptly detect and diagnose emerging infectious disease pathogens such as SARS or MERS coronavirus and to prevent disease transmission.

This was not the first collaboration between the U.S. and Taiwan. In March the two Centers also co-hosted the “Training Course for Preparing Healthcare Workers to Work in Ebola Treatment Units”. To help train participants, four experts from the US CDC served in the training course as lecturers, including two nosocomial infection prevention and control experts and two molecular laboratory professionals. The training course also involved simulated exercises that covered topics such as epidemiology, preparedness and infection control of MERS-CoV, the molecular diagnosis of MERS-CoV, nucleic acid extraction platform, RT-PCR, and laboratory biosafety. The experts from the US CDC brought some of the reagents used during the simulated exercises from the US to Taiwan. 

Training and collaboration between centers and countries are important because they provide an opportunity for health professionals to establish a laboratory network that can more effectively to respond to infectious diseases.