MERS-CoV Spreads to the United States
On May 2, 2014 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (or MERS) in the United States. The virus was found in a man who had traveled from Saudi Arabia to Indiana at the end of April.
MERS-CoV is a viral respiratory illness that first begin infecting humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012. All reported cases since have been linked to 7 different countries, and all have originated within the Arabian Peninsula. The symptoms are similar to that of the flu: fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. MERS is unusually deadly, however; around 30% of the people infected have died. Despite the name, MERS is not the same coronavirus that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.
The CDC has not yet advised any travel changes and recommends the following to those traveling to the Arabian Peninsula:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.
If you develop symptoms of respiratory illness within 14 days of travel, the CDC recommends visiting your healthcare provider. For more information regarding MERS-CoV, coronaviruses, and the recent case in the United States, visit the links under Resources.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
MERS CoV First US Case Announced / Press Release / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Frequently Asked Questions about MERS CoV / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
About Coronaviruses / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A second case of MERS-CoV was confirmed on May 12, 2014 in Orlando, Florida. As with the previous case, the patient was a healthcare worker who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia. In a press conference, CDC Director Dr. Tom Friedan and Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, iterated that so far MERS is not considered easily transmissible. The two US cases have occurred in health workers that were in close contact with those already infected with MERS.
For the complete press conference transcript, visit the CDC’s Media page.