U.S. Confirms First Case of MERS Virus – Muslim Pilgrims May be Particularly 'Vulnerable'

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By Sachin Trivedi | May 5, 2014 2:44 PM EST

The first case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a man traveling from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Chicago via London. The virus was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Reuters
Particles of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus that emerged in 2012 are seen in an undated colorized transmission electron micrograph from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). REUTERS/National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Handout via Reuters

The MERS virus is a respiratory infection that is genetically different from the SARS virus. According to the Health Department of the New South Wales government, the virus has already claimed the lives of 93 people as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The cases of the MERS virus have been reported in Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, UK, Tunisia, Malaysia and the Philippines. According to the officials in the U.S, they were anticipating the virus to spread to the country eventually and have been preparing for it.

The symptoms of the virus include shortness of breath, coughing and fever. The preventive measures that people can take include frequent hand washing and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. Timely diagnosis of the virus and general treatment can be life-saving.

Millions of Muslims worldwide make a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia each year. There has been no travel advisory against traveling to the Middle East countries but WHO has provided some travel advice to people who plan to travel.

Although it is relatively difficult for the MERS virus to spread but certain people with medical conditions may be more susceptible. People with diabetes, chronic lung disease and immunodeficiency have been advised to consult a professional before deciding on taking a trip.

While in the Middle East, if a person develops the symptoms of the MERS virus, the person has been advised to minimize contact with others and seek medical attention immediately and not wait until he returns to his home country.

Countries have been advised to maintain up-to-date information regarding the MERS virus and maintain laboratory with adequate facilities to test the virus. This should help in efficiently detecting the virus early to help the patient and also check the spread of the virus.

There are still no cases reported of the MERS virus in Australia. The Health Department is taking all necessary steps to raise awareness among the public and prevent the spread of the virus in the country.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Particles of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus that emerged in 2012 are seen in an undated colorized transmission electron micrograph from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). REUTERS/National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Handout via Reuters
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