Warnings About MERS Posted at LAX

MERS kills one out of every three people it infects.

MERS virus (Image Credit: CDC)
MERS virus (Image Credit: CDC)
Posters warning travelers of the threat of the deadly MERS infection are going up  at Los Angeles International Airport.
There is no treatment for the respiratory illness, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, that kills about one in three people who contract it, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC is working on a vaccine.
MERS requires close contact to spread and confirmed cases of the infection have been concentrated in the Arabian Peninsula, but two cases were reported in the United States this month. Both patients were healthcare workers who live in Saudi Arabia and had been traveling to the United States.
They were hospitalized in Indiana and Florida, where CDC officials are tracking those with whom they had contact.
The first patient has been released from the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The patient in the second case, confirmed Sunday, reportedly was doing "well'' Monday.
The World Health Organization has reported 571 confirmed cases of MERS,
including 171 deaths, in 18 countries. All have been linked to the Arabian Peninsula, where MERS first emerged about two years ago, according to the CDC.
CDC officials say the risk to the U.S. general public is "very low'' and the World Health Organization said the spread of the disease does not constitute a global health emergency. However, officials want travelers to the Arabian Peninsula to be aware of MERS symptoms that could be mistaken for the flu. Posters are going up at 20 airports nationwide.
County health officials have been closing monitoring the infection since 2012, according to Dr. Laurene Mascola, chief of the county's Acute Communicable Disease Control unit.

"We have ramped up our notifications to doctors and emergency rooms,'' Mascola said.
She reiterated the low likelihood of contracting the disease in the United States.
"It's not casually spread,'' Mascola said. "It's not spread in the community in general, even in Saudi Arabia,'' where the majority of cases have been reported.
Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC recommends that travelers to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates monitor their health closely for 14 days after travel and immediately call a doctor if they experience such symptoms.
The CDC does not recommend changing travel plans because of the MERS threat. It does advise travelers to wash their hands often and avoid contact with sick people. It also offers special precautions to be taken by health-care providers traveling to the Arabian Peninsula for work.

Precautions at county hospitals include putting masks on patients with respiratory symptoms and isolating them from others in emergency rooms, according to Dr. Suzanne Donovan, an infectious disease specialist at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.
Those steps are routinely taken to prevent the spread of tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases, Donovan said. New efforts to educate patients about MERS include signs asking emergency room patients who have recently traveled to the Middle East to report to the triage nurse immediately.

—City News Service


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