Middle East respiratory syndrome — or MERS — first surfaced two years ago. Since then, at least 400 cases of the respiratory illness have been reported, and more than 100 people have died.
Saudi Arabia was been the center of the outbreak. All the victims have had ties to the Middle East or to someone who traveled there.
The virus has been found in camels, but officials don’t know how it is spreading to humans.
The CDC said the infected person is a healthcare worker who traveled from Saudi Arabia to Indiana:
On April 24, the patient traveled by plane from Saudi Arabia to London, then from London to Chicago,” the CDC said. “The patient then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. On the 27th, the patient began to experience signs of illness, including shortness of breath and coughing. The patient went to an emergency department on April 28th. Because of the patient’s symptoms and travel history, Indiana public health officials had him tested for MERS.
MERS is related to SARS, the virus that killed nearly 800 people in 2003. Both are caused by coronaviruses, members of a family of viruses that usually cause common cold symptoms and that infect a wide range of mammals.
The virus can survive on surfaces, and kills approximately one-third of people who show symptoms. Some people have been found to have the virus, but never develop symptoms or become ill.
Here are the symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Malaise – a general feeling of being unwell
- Chest pain
- Diarrhea (in some cases)
- Renal (kidney) failure
The person who brought the virus to the US traveled via airplane and bus.
It is too soon to know if the virus will spread and how many will be impacted, but just in case…are you prepared?
Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition provides the following tips:
So what can you do to be ready for a pandemic outbreak?
- Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand.
- Have a supply of face masks to wear around those who may be ill or exposed to the illness.
- Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
- Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
- Prepare a sick room for the home to limit family member’s exposure to the virus.
To decrease the chances of the virus spreading and infecting other household members as well as members of your community, it is important that every effort be made to limit exposure to the illness. Some considerations on how to prevent exposure to a pandemic outbreak are:
- Avoid close contact with those who are ill.
- Stay inside and avoid contact with others.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes during any pandemic.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Keep your hands clean. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub or make your own natural hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- If you are ill, stay indoors or keep your distance from others.
- Keeping your immune systems up by getting lots of sleep, having a good diet and taking antioxidants in protecting your health.
Remember, MERS is a virus and has no cure. Preventing the spread of the disease is crucial.