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Important things to know about this new virus from the Middle East.

The first case of the virus Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has hit the United States. A health care worker traveled from Indiana to Saudi Arabia last month, contracting the virus. The unknown traveler is currently in isolation in an Indiana hospital. Experts say that it was just a matter of time before MERS hit the U.S. They also say that this one case poses a low risk to the general public. 

On April 24, the traveler went by plane from Saudi Arabia to London, then from London to Chicago and took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. On the 27th, they began to experience signs of illness, including shortness of breath and coughing and went to an emergency room. Here’s everything you need to know about MERS.

What is MERS?

The coronavirus can survive on surfaces, and can possibly spread when people touch something contaminated. MERS, which stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, kills about a third of the patients who show symptoms but some people who have been infected never actually got sick. Those who get severely ill were usually older people or had other illnesses such as diabetes or kidney disease. Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath and coughing. It was first spotted in the Middle East and as the name says, it is a disease of the respiratory system. 

5 Things to Know About MERS 

It’s new: It was first seen in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Since then, it has spread to 16 countries, mostly in the Middle East but also in Europe and Asia. It’s a distant relative of SARS. 

It’s deadly: The World Health Organization reports more than 250 cases and 93 deaths since 2012. But Saudi Arabia alone has reported 371 cases, with 107 deaths. 

It doesn’t spread easily: That’s comforting! Those who get sick usually have close and prolonged contact with someone who is already sick. 

There’s no treatment: There’s no vaccine against MERS and antiviral drugs don’t seem to fight it either. 

No one knows where it came from: Recent research suggests camels but many who become sick didn’t have contact with camels. It could be from camel milk or meat too. 

Photo Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) 


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