CDC expert: what Utahans need to know about MERS

Experts say Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is not easily transmitted and the general public is not at great risk at this time. Image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

<span>SALT LAKE CITY – People in Utah may be interested in the public health implications linked to the first U.S. transmission of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome </span><a href=”” target=”parent”>(MERS).</a><span> David Swerdlow, M.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is leading the agency’s response team for the virus. He says while the virus can spread from person to person, it is not easily transmitted.</span>

<span>”There’s been no sustained transmission like you see with flu, where it goes from person to person to person,” Swerdlow explains. “So, at the current time, we are concerned about the virus, we do think that there could be imported cases, but we don’t see this being a major problem in the U.S. with widespread cases.”</span>

<a href=”” target=”parent”>According to the CDC</a><span>, the first U.S. transmission happened when an Illinois resident had contact with a person in Indiana, who was infected while traveling in Saudi Arabia. These two cases of MERS are not linked to third patient in Florida, who had also traveled to Saudi Arabia.</span>

<span>MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Since then, almost 600 cases have been confirmed in 15 countries, with 173 deaths. Swerdlow says most patients develop respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath, and there is no specific treatment. </span>

<span>”Of course, if a person gets a respiratory illness like this, they can be treated in an intensive care unit if needed, and get the standard things that we do for patients with respiratory illness,” Swerdlow says. “But there’s no specific treatment, like an anti-viral.”</span>

<span>The CDC advises health care workers traveling to the Arabian Peninsula to follow guidelines for infection control and other travelers to take precautions to protect their health. As with any respiratory illness, Swerdlow says that means frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding contact with those who are sick.</span>

<span>The CDC posts MERS information on its </span><a href=”” target=”parent”>website</a><span>.</span>

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