MERS and H7N9 Emerging Infectious Disease Update


Recently, Iridia Medical has been providing updates on the development of possible emerging viral infections around the world.

In particular, we’ve been relaying updates to our client audience about developments surrounding the outbreak of the A(H7N9) Avian Influenza Virus in China.  Further, we’ve also begun tracking the now formally defined MERS Coronavirus, or ‘Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.

Iridia has been tracking these developments as they are relevant to a number of our Iridia clients including the following:

  • Fire Rescue Departments – these individuals can be exposed on the front lines to emerging infectious threats, so we attempt to provide current advice on patient care protocols as well as recommendations with respect to limiting occupational exposure.
  • Remote Medical Programs – our paramedics and physicians work in remote camp environments.  These camps are at high-risk for infectious outbreaks; therefore, we need to be prepared should these outbreaks spread to Canada.
  • Critical Infrastructure Preparedness Programs – in the past, we’ve been very involved in developing response plans for the health, banking, transportation, and oil and gas sectors with respect to new influenza strains, including the recent H1N1 outbreak. 

For these reasons, we’ve found it helpful to keep abreast of A(H7N9) and MERS developments overseas so that we are informed and prepared to act should the virus mutate and begin human-human transmission.


The MERS Coronavirus is primarily zoonotic in nature, meaning its transmission is mostly between animals, but can also infect humans.  Although there have been only 40 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS, nearly half of the cases have been fatal.  Several cases in the Middle East have been reported as well as cases in Europe; there is some evidence of direct human-to-human transmission of the virus.

At the moment, the impact of these viruses is minimal; however, health experts around the world are cautioning that any mutation in these viruses that enables it to transmit from human-to-human could spark a global health emergency.


As of today, new laboratory-confirmed infections of A(H7N9) have slowed.  Although there are hundreds of suspected A(H7N9) infections, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases, as of May 16, 2013, is 131 and 32 people have succumbed to the virus.  The MERS virus has been laboratory-confirmed in 40 patients – approximately half have died from the virus. 

MERS and H7N9

Key Alerts

  • May 17 – Updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada – available here.
  • May 17 – Background information on Coronavirus infections can be found here.
  • May 17 – Current updates on the MERS (Novel Corona virus) virus from the World Health Organization can be found here.
  • May 16 – New reports yield clues about A(H7N9) detection – available here.
  • May 10 – The United States CDC further assesses the risk of the A(H7N9) virus – available here.

Summary, Risks, and Recommendations

In general, new cases of both viruses are infrequent.  Expert researchers around the world agree that there is no strong evidence of human-to-human transmission in the case of either the MERS or A(H7N9) virus.  The Public Health Agency of Canada is currently classifying the A(H7N9) virus as a ‘foreign animal disease agent;’ the virus is currently considered a ‘Risk Group 3’ human and animal pathogen.


  • Total A(H7N9) confirmed cases: 131
  • Total A(H7N9) fatalities: 32
  • Total MERS confirmed cases: 40
  • Total MERS fatalities: 20

Additional Information

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