CDC Confirms Second Case of Deadly Middle Eastern Virus in the U.S.

A man touches the lip of a young Majahim camel during the final day of Mazayin Dhafra Camel Festival in the outskirts of Zayed City, United Arab Emirates. Scientists say the mysterious MERS virus has been infecting camels in Saudi Arabia for at least two decades.

Calling it an "unwelcome but not unexpected" development, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Florida Department of Health officials announced on Monday that they are investigating the second case of a MERS-CoV infection in the U.S.
The first case of MERS, a viral-respiratory illness first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012, was reported earlier this month in Indiana.

The second patient, who is now in quarantine at an Orlando-area hospital, was a health-care worker who had traveled to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia, officials said on a conference call Monday afternoon. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general for the United States Public Health Service and Director, and John H. Armstrong, Florida’s state surgeon general and secretary of health, collectively made the announcement and answered reporters' questions about the case.

The patient had flown from Saudi Arabia to Boston, and then Atlanta, before finally landing in Orlando, officials said. Here, he or she visited with family members, who are now "staying home," an official said. Airline officials are now reaching out to approximately 500 passengers who were on flights with the infected health-care worker, and are working in conjunction with 20 state health departments. The passengers are being asked to provide a specimen to see if they've developed an infection; however, officials said if they hadn't already developed MERS symptoms by now, they probably wouldn't.
"There is very low risk to U.S. public," Frieden tweeted Monday afternoon.
As of Monday, officials have detected a total of 538 lab-confirmed cases of MERS worldwide, which includes 145 deaths. Saudi Arabia has the majority of the cases, with 450 lab-confirmed cases of MERS and 100 deaths.

The CDC said most people who are infected with MERS-CoV develop severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. It has been shown to spread between people who are in close contact, according to the CDC, with healthcare personnel at risk of transmission from infected patients. However, the CDC is unsure about the virus' origins:
We don’t know for certain where the virus came from. However, it likely came from an animal source. In addition to humans, MERS-CoV has been found in camels in Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and a bat in Saudi Arabia. Camels in a few other countries have also tested positive for antibodies to MERS-CoV, indicating they were previously infected with MERS-CoV or a closely related virus. However, we don’t know whether camels are the source of the virus. More information is needed to identify the possible role that camels, bats and other animals may play in the transmission of MERS-CoV.
Federal and Florida health officials plan on releasing more information about this second case later on Monday. We'll update if and when they do.

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