Is MERS Coming Back or has it Ever Left?

Should the U.S. have the same fears about a MERS outbreak in America? Not according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), who rates the likelihood of an American outbreak as very low.

Another illness is in the air – literally – that could threaten international travelers this year.

First identified in 2012, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) has ravaged South Korea and spread among 24 other countries globally.

It is not uncommon to see someone of Asian descent in the United States wearing a breathing mask. This is a common practice in areas of Asia where MERS has left its mark. Some companies even manufacture designer masks in various colors and decorations as fashion.

Like its name identifies, the virus affects respiratory functions in the body. The illness presents itself initially with mild symptoms such as fever or shortness of breath. Severe cases may include respiratory failure with artificial breathing measures required. In fatal cases, organ failure – primarily of the kidneys – has been the culprit.

The death toll for MERS in South Korea continues to grow. At present, more than 30 individuals have died from the illness since 2014, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

How the illness continues to spread is a little unknown to WHO. It’s known that transmission can happen from animals to humans, and camels in multiple countries have tested positive for a strain of the disease.

How human to human transmission occurs is still not confirmed, however. The WHO concludes transmitting the virus from one human to another is not easily done. It is possible the virus travels from person to person when unprotected individuals administer health care or are in close contact with an individual who has MERS.

MERS belongs to the large family of respiratory viruses that includes SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). In the early 2000s, SARS presented as a potential threat to many resident in the US, although only eight cases were clinically confirmed in America.

Should the U.S. have the same fears about a MERS outbreak in America? Not according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), who rates the likelihood of an American outbreak as very low.

To date, only two confirmed cases of MERS have been discovered in Americans, and both originated from visits to Saudi Arabia. The two confirmed cases were unrelated, according to the CDC.

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INC Staff Writer
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