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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has caused severe illness and death in people from several countries. On May 11, 2014, the second imported case was confirmed in a traveler to the United States.
The first confirmed case of MERS-CoV was reported in a traveler to the United States on May 2, 2014. The patient, a healthcare worker who traveled from Saudi Arabia to a city in Indiana by way of London and Chicago, was isolated in a hospital during the course of illness and later discharged, having fully recovered.

On May 11, 2014, a second U.S. imported case of MERS was confirmed in a traveler who also came to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. The patient is hospitalized and doing well. The patient flew from Saudi Arabia to the United States by way of London, England; Boston, Massachusetts; Atlanta, Georgia; and Orlando, Florida.  The CDC is working very quickly to investigate this second U.S. case of MERS and respond to minimize the spread of this virus.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It is different from any other coronavirus previously found in people. We don’t know where the virus came from or exactly how it spreads. However, it likely came from an animal source. All reported cases to date have been linked to the Arabian Peninsula.

Most people infected with MERS-CoV developed severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About 30% of people with MERS have died. Most of the people who died had an underlying medical condition. Some infected people had mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

It is different from the coronavirus that caused SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003. However, like the SARS virus, MERS-CoV is most similar to coronaviruses found in bats.

What Are Coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. They are common viruses that most people get in their lifetime. These viruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses.

CDC Does Not Recommend Anyone Change Travel Plans

The CDC does not recommend that anyone change their travel plans because of MERS. The current CDC travel notice is an Alert (Level 2), which provides special precautions for travelers. Because spread of MERS has occurred in healthcare settings, the alert advises travelers going to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula to provide healthcare services to practice CDC’s recommendations for infection control of confirmed or suspected cases and to monitor their health closely. Travelers who are going to the area for other reasons are advised to follow standard precautions, such as hand washing and avoiding contact with people who are ill.

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