CDC Braces For Cases Of MERS, Gets Ready For Outbreaks Of Deadly Virus In U.S.
Although the deadly MERS virus has yet to strike inside the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun to prepare for the disease's potential spread to the United States.
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The U.S. has had no confirmed cases of the virus, which is related to SARS--but is much more deadly. According the World Health Organization, more than 60 cases of MERS, including 38 deaths, have been recorded by the in the past year. So far, most cases have appeared in Saudi Arabia, though cases have also appeared in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Tunisia.
The CDC has said that it believes the risk of the virus appearing in the U.S. is low--but still very present.
"We know that the experience in Europe says the risk is not zero," Dr. Mark Pallansch, director of the CDC's division of viral diseases, reportedly said. "They've had at least four events of importing the virus in a traveler from (the Middle East). Since their travel volume is much higher with that region than ours, that would make sense in terms of us not having had a case, but still tells us the risk is not zero."
To prepare for a case of MERS in the US, the CDC is taking a three step approach.
First, the CDC has already begun equipping hospitals with tools that will allow them to rapidly detect and report instances of the virus. Should MERS be detected in a U.S. hospital, the CDC would confirm the presence of the virus. If confirmed, the hospital with the virus would then prepare to contain the spread of the disease.
Medical officials have noticed one good thing about MERS--so far the virus doesn't seem to spread from person to person outside of hospital settings, or unless people are in close proximity for prolonged periods of time.
The CDC has also begun a communication strategy, aiming to get more knowledge of the virus out to the public.
"At the moment, we're not monitoring travelers, but we are encouraging physicians who have sick patients to ask about a travel history, specifically to the four countries affected so far in the Middle East," Pallansch reportedly said.