Deadly MERS Virus Detected In Florida
The second U.S. case of a dangerous new virus from the Middle East has been found in Florida, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
The patient is a health care worker from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who developed symptoms May 1 while traveling to Orlando, Fla., to visit family, the CDC said.
MERS is a life-threatening respiratory infection that first emerged on the Arabian Peninsula in 2012. The virus is related to one that causes the common cold and SARS, which sparked a worldwide alarm in 2003.
There have been 538 confirmed MERS cases reported globally, including 148 deaths. Most cases have occurred in Saudi Arabia. But travelers have carried the virus to other parts of the world, including the U.K., France and Malaysia.
State and federal health officials are working to make sure the virus does not spread in Florida, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a telephone briefing for reporters. But there’s no reason for widespread alarm.
"Our experience with MERS, so far, suggests the risk to the public is extremely low," Frieden said. The virus doesn’t appear to spread easily from one person to another, he added.
Nevertheless, officials are tracking down hundreds of people who may have had contact with the patient during flights to London, Boston, Atlanta and Orlando.
Photo: A farmworker in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, wears a mask to protect against Middle East respiratory syndrome earlier this month. The MERS virus is common in camels. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)