- — Health officials around the world are paying more attention to a recent increase in cases of a deadly respiratory virus known as MERS. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome first emerged in the Middle East about two years ago. Since then, more than 500 cases have been confirmed and reported to the World Health Organization, including at least 145 deaths. Most of the cases have been in Saudi Arabia. Two cases have been confirmed in the United States.
Both were in healthcare workers, living and working at hospitals in Saudi Arabia. One man in Indiana has recovered and been released. Another patient is in a Florida hospital.
Here are some questions and answers about MERS.
Q: Now that there are confirmed cases in the United States, should I be worried?
A: Health officials say people aren't likely to get infected by casual contact. The people who have gotten sick so far are healthcare workers or family members who were in close contact with the infected person. The people most at-risk people are healthcare workers. About one-fifth of reported cases worldwide have been in that group.
Q: Are these two cases in the United States linked?
A: No. But both are healthcare personnel living in Saudi Arabia and working in hospitals that were treating MERS cases.
Q: What are the symptoms of MERS?
A: MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Most people infected with the virus developed severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Q: How deadly is it?
A: More than 30 percent of people with MERS have died. Most of the people who died had an underlying medical condition. Some infected people had mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. The median age of confirmed cases is 51.
Q: Has anyone who came into contact with the two U.S. patients also gotten sick?