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