The virus behind the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a deadly coronavirus cousin of SARS and the common cold, has officially hit the United States. In Indiana, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a traveler from Saudi Arabia showed up at the emergency room with a fever and a shortness of breath; subsequent tests confirmed he was afflicted by the MERS virus.
The disease's arrival in the U.S. is worth paying attention to, but, at the same time, it's also not really a reason for most of us to worry.
The idea of a MERS outbreak is scary for those working in healthcare. Indeed, the patient in Indiana was working in healthcare in Saudi Arabia. And, if there were a widespread outbreak of MERS it would be difficult to manage: there is no working vaccine or cure, says the AP.
But the specter of what MERS could become is scarier than what it actually is right now.
MERS is not particularly contagious, and the high death rate is only for people who are symptomatic. But even if someone gets the virus, it doesn't necessarily mean he or she will show symptoms. Knowing how the virus has spread among the healthy is harder to pin down. And, says the AP, “most deaths have been people already weakened by other health conditions.”
The patient in Indiana is getting better, and no one else seems to have picked it up off him, says the Toronto Star.