The second confirmed U.S. case of a deadly virus that has already sickened hundreds of people in the Middle East has been found in Florida.
Earlier this month, a man who traveled from Saudi Arabia to Indiana was diagnosed with the first case of MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Now, health officials say they’ve found a second case in a man who took multiple flights from Saudi Arabia to Orlando.
“MERS-CoV is not easy to spread and there is no broad risk presented to the public from this case identified in Orange County. This event reminds us of three ways to stay well and to prevent the risk of infection: washing your hands routinely, keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth, and staying home when you’re sick,” said State Surgeon General, Dr. John Armstrong, during a conference call Monday.
The Center for Disease Control and the Florida Department of Health have been working together on the outbreak investigation, and have also been contacting those who were on the same flights as the two patients. Health officials have confirmed that the two people were health care workers, but don’t believe the two cases are linked. Still, CDC Director Tom Frieden says he expects more cases will follow.
“Since we are seeing clusters in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in hospitals and since there are health care workers traveling back and forth, we would not be surprised to see additional cases just as we have not been surprised by these cases,” said Frieden.
MERS is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and cough, but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death.
Health officials say while there’s no vaccine to prevent the virus or any specific anti-viral treatment recommended for MERS, medical care can help relieve symptoms such as respiratory problems.
As of Monday, the CDC is reporting a total of 538 laboratory confirmed cases worldwide, including 145 deaths due to MERS. Saudi Arabia, alone, has reported 450 confirmed cases and 112 deaths.
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