MERS virus spreads

(NBC News) – Today health officials are warning the deadly virus, MERS, can be easier to transmit than previously thought.

The concern comes after a person in Illinois contracted MERS after limited contact. This is the first time that a mysterious Middle East virus has spread from one person to another in the United States.

The contact in this case came stateside during a business meeting. Just 40 minutes and a brief handshake between an infected man from Indiana who’d been working in Saudi Arabia…and an Illinois man who picked up the infection…”It looks like this will be the first case in the U.S. of contraction or transmission of MERS, so this makes us very concerned at this point,” said Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck, Illinois Public Health Department.

The Illinois man only showed symptoms through a mild cold. He’s no longer sick and was asked to isolate himself.

But the man who had been in the Middle East spent several weeks in the hospital and is better.

The cases are raising new questions about how the virus is transmitted. “We have to be very careful about giving people a false sense of security, but at the same time, we have to state that the problem is largely limited to the Middle East,” said the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research Policy, Dr. Michael Osterholm.

Warnings now appear in airports for those traveling overseas.

The virus is tricky, as symptoms range from none – to a severe cold and respiratory problems. “About two years ago, persons having close contact with camels either handling them or consuming camel products began to develop this infection,” said Dr. Osterholm.

The virus started in Saudi Arabia back in 2012. There is no vaccine or cure and only symptoms can be treated.

The virus has now spread to 15 countries, about 600 people in all have been sickened, and one third of them had died.

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