The U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed on Monday the second imported case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the United States.
The patient is being treated at an Orlando hospital. He traveled to the U.S. May 1, with stops in Boston and Atlanta before arriving in Orlando.
Like the case reported previously, he was a health care provider in Saudi Arabia. Preliminary reports say that he worked in a facility that cared for patients with MERS infections.The patient’s travel began on May 1, 2014 from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to London. He reportedly developed mild symptoms and was "unwell" on his first and subsequent flights that included stops in Boston, Atlanta, and Orlando.
The man reportedly has family in the Orlando area. There was a period of time from when he got off the plane to when he went to the hospital; but he never visited any theme parks, health officials said.
The CDC has been notifying individuals on the U.S. flights and says there are more than 500 of them. They are asking them to report symptoms and also asking for lab samples to rule out asymptomatic spread of the virus.
They believe risk is low since infections usually happen about five days after exposure. However, out of an abundance of caution, they are asking anyone who has traveled to the Arabian Peninsula, who develops symptoms including fever, cough, or shortness of breath, to seek medical care within 14 days.
Since it's identification in 2012, there have been 538 laboratory confirmed cases worldwide with 150 deaths. One fifth of those cases, were in health care providers.
Although cases of MERS appear to be on the rise in Saudi Arabia, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden believes it is due to better detection. With increased monitoring, milder cases are being identified.
He believes as we begin to better understand the disease, the high death rate (approximately 30 percent) will likely fall, because milder cases will come to light and offset the critical cases that had historically been diagnosed.
At this time, the public is not considered to be at risk, because MERS doesn't spread easily from person to person. The patient's family is under "voluntary" quarantine, and has been asked to stay home or wear masks if they go to a public place.
Bottom line: this new case was "unwelcome but not unexpected," according to Dr. Frieden. Health care facilities must respond appropriately and operate with "meticulous infection control,” provide rapid detection, and rapid isolation, to prevent spread in the health care setting.
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