5 Things to Know About the MERS Virus Now That It's Here

VIDEO: First Case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Reported in US
ABCNews.com

A deadly SARS-like virus spreading through the Middle East has landed in the U.S., health officials said today.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this afternoon confirmed the first U.S. case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS – a viral infection that has killed more than 100 people worldwide.

The case involved a healthcare worker who had been working in Saudi Arabia, the CDC said today. The patient, whose name and gender have not been released, flew from Saudi Arabia to London on April 24, and then flew to Chicago before developing a fever, cough and shortness of breath on April 27. The patient sought emergency medical care at a hospital in Indiana April 28, where he or she remains in stable condition receiving oxygen.

“We should not be surprised if additional cases are identified,” U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Anne Schuchat said at a media briefing today.

Learn more about the history of the outbreak.

While details of the case and the potential for spread are still emerging, here are five things you need to know about MERS.

What You Need to Know About MERS

MERS Coronavirus Update Map
ABC News
It’s Spreading

Saudi Arabia is ground zero for the outbreak, with 378 cases and 107 deaths. But at least 14 other countries have reported infections, including Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Malaysia, Oman, France, Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Philippines and now the U.S.

The virus spreads from person-to-person through close contact, but might also be transmitted to humans from animals, according to the CDC.

Find out how to protect yourself from MERS.

What You Need to Know About MERS

It’s Deadly

Roughly one-third of the people known to have contracted the MERS virus have died from it, according to data from the World Health Organization. Most of the fatal cases have involved the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions.

What You Need to Know About MERS

It Can Look Like the Flu

Symptoms of the MERS virus include fever and cough, which are also symptoms of the flu. MERS can also cause diarrhea and shortness of breath, and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

See how MERS affects the body.

What You Need to Know About MERS

It Might Have Come From Camels, Bats or Both

While the source of MERS remains a mystery, scientists suspect that it came from an animal. Camels and bats in Saudi Arabia have tested positive for the virus, according to the CDC.

What You Need to Know About MERS

There’s No Cure

There's no treatment for MERS. People who get sick are given supportive treatment to address the infection’s various symptoms, according to the CDC. There's no vaccine, either.

Click here for more information on MERS from the CDC.

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