MERS threat increases as 18 countries report cases

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Only two cases are confirmed so far in the United States, but already the World Health Organization is issuing an urgent warning for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.

Eighteen countries, including the United States, are reporting cases of the deadly virus.

Health officials say hundreds of people may have been exposed to the virus by flying on planes.

Both of the cases in the U.S. are healthcare workers who were infected in Saudi Arabia.

People who rode on planes with the two patients are now being contacted by state health agencies.

Experts say it takes sustained, close contact with a patient to get it, but they also say it is worrisome, just like SARS.

“With SARS, it spread so far because people carrying the disease from Asia went to many different parts of the world, and unfortunately when they got sick and went into hospitals or were being taken care of by family members, they were able to infect people who were at close range,” said Prof. Stephen Morse, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Columbia University.

Health officials say some people who have MERS could go undetected by thermoimaging scanners, because some may not have fevers yet. The incubation period for MERS is two to 14 days.

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 News

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