MERS: What You Need To Know

The MERS virus — short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome — first surfaced in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Symptoms: They can include fever, cough and breathing problems, which can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure. The first U.S. patient suffering from MERS was identified in late April at Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. He was treated there and just last Friday was released, and is considered to be fully recovered. Multiple tests by the Indiana State Laboratory and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have so far shown that the man did not pass the virus on to anyone he came into contact with. The two-week incubation period for those people ends this week.

Formal name: It's called MERS-CoV because it is a member of the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003.

How deadly is it? CDC says about half the people who've been infected to date have died.

How easily does it spread? The CDC says the virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact but has not been shown to spread through casual contact, such as riding on the same bus or airplane. Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York, said his research suggests that the virus passes from camels to people, though it's unclear whether the virus is transmitted by drinking raw camel milk, eating raw meat or some other route.

Lipkin said the virus has been present in Middle Eastern camels since at least the 1990s, but it's not clear whether it has recently changed to trigger the outbreaks in people.

Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general, and director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, says the virus "represents a very low risk to the broad general public."

Since April 2012, countries with MERS-confirmed cases include France, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.

Is there a vaccine? No, but CDC is in discussions with several groups that have promising vaccine targets.


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