For the first time the MERS virus has spread from one person to another in the U.S. It's the third confirmed case of the potentially deadly illness in the United States. And as more lab-reported cases are confirmed worldwide, there are certain traits, signs and symptoms you should be aware of.
If you are travelling to the Middle East, or are in contact with someone who has recently been to the Arabian Peninsula, you may want to recognize symptoms of MERS.
“If you start having flu-like symptoms such as fevers, chills cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, that you notify individuals such as your medical doctors, or health department,” says Dr. Vilma Vega of Infectious Disease Associates.
He says there is a difference between the first man known to contract MERS in the U.S. and the other U.S. citizens with the virus. “They checked blood and several other specimens and this one happened to have antibodies against the specific MERS virus. Interestingly enough, he never had any symptoms.”
How hard the virus hits you once infected just depends on the person, says epidemiologist Michael Drennon of the Sarasota County Department of Health. “Your immune system really comes into play. The most severe cases have been among people who have pre-existing medical conditions or some underlying immune compromising condition.”
Symptoms typically develop between two to fourteen days of exposure. “That's the time frame when symptoms will appear, and that's usually cough, sore throat, runny nose, and many people will develop pneumonia.”
At this time treatment for MERS is supportive care, as there is no vaccine that exists for the virus. We don't know why some testing positive for the virus show symptoms while others don't.
“That's why we're investigating; we do realize that about 30% of patients who get exposed to this appear to get quite ill and actually die from the infection.”
Healthcare workers and family members in close contact with an infected person are at greatest risk of the virus, but exactly how it started and even how it spreads is still unknown.