On Sunday, a second case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was confirmed in Florida by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC, MERS is a viral respiratory illness that is relatively new to humans. It is formally known as MERS-CoV because it is caused by a coronavirus, a common type of respiratory virus with a crown-spiked surface. The first human case was reported in Saudi Arabia in back in 2012. It causes acute severe respiratory illness with symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, and a cough which can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure. Approximately 30% of those infected have died from the illness.
Both confirmed cases in the U.S. have been imported from people who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia.
The CDC confirmed the first case of MERS in the U.S. on May 2 in Indiana. According to their website, the patient is considered fully recovered and has been released from the hospital. The virus is known to spread to other people through close contact, however it has not been passed to any of the first patient’s family members, fellow travelers or health officials.
The CDC reports that the second patient is also doing well, and people who have been in close contact with them are being contacted. There is no connection in the two cases.
So far, all worldwide cases have been linked to six countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Travel-associated cases have appeared in the UK, Italy, France, Malaysia, Tunisia, and Turkey.
Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, told USA Today that his research suggests the virus is passed from camels to people, though the exact route is unclear. Lipkin also stated that although the virus has been present in Middle Eastern camels since the 90’s, it is unclear what changed to cause the recent outbreaks in humans.
There has been an increase in cases reported from United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia since Mid-March. The CDC does not suggest anyone traveling to the Arabian Peninsula to change their travel plans but to take standard precautions.