CDC: First case of deadly virus MERS reported in U.S.
Above: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Transmission electron micrograph of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus
(CNN) INDIANA — The first U.S. case of MERS-CoV has been reported in Indiana, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
MERS-CoV, short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, is a type of coronavirus.
CDC and the Indiana State Department of Heath are conducting a joint investigation of the first case of MERS-CoV in the United States. MERS-CoV, a virus new to humans, was first reported in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012.
The CDC and Indiana health officials say the patient is a health care provider who recently traveled from Saudi Arabia. They are calling the case a “rapidly evolving situation.” The CDC also says they would not be surprised if additional MERS cases are identified.
The patient flew from Saudi Arabia, to London, and then to Chicago on April 24. From Chicago the patient took a bus to Indiana. The patient started seeing symptoms on April 27.
Since the first documented cases in spring 2012, MERS has sickened at least 339 people in Saudi Arabia alone and killed nearly a third of them, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.
This story is developing. Check back for details.
Q: What is MERS?
A: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness. MERS is caused by a coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV).
Q: What is MERS-CoV?
A: MERS-CoV is a beta coronavirus. It was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. MERS-CoV used to be called “novel coronavirus,” or “nCoV”. It is different from other coronaviruses that have been found in people before.
Q: Is MERS-CoV the same as the SARS virus?
A: No. MERS-CoV is not the same coronavirus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. However, like the SARS virus, MERS-CoV is most similar to coronaviruses found in bats. CDC is still learning about MERS.
Q: What are the symptoms of MERS?
A: Most people who got infected with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half of them died. Some people were reported as having a mild respiratory illness.
Q: Does MERS-CoV spread from person to person?
A: MERS-CoV has been shown to spread between people who are in close contact. Transmission from infected patients to healthcare personnel has also been observed. Clusters of cases in several countries are being investigated.
Q: How can I help protect myself?
A: CDC advises that people follow these tips to help prevent respiratory illnesses:
- 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.
Q: Is there a vaccine?
A: No, but CDC is discussing with partners the possibility of developing one.
Q: What are the treatments?
A: There are no specific treatments recommended for illnesses caused by MERS-CoV. Medical care is supportive and to help relieve symptoms.