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MERS Virus Hits US [AUDIO]

It’s not yet time to sound the alarm, but the United States has inherited its first cases of a deadly virus known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.

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The respiratory illness was first reported overseas in 2012, but it wasn’t until this month that the first U.S. case of MERS was confirmed.

Symptoms include a fever and cough, chills and shortness of breath. However, the virus has had a fairly high fatality rate among its more than 500 victims worldwide.

“Between 25 and 40 percent of the people who develop this syndrome have actually died,” said Dr. David Swerdlow of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The first U.S. victim, though, has fully recovered and was recently released from a hospital in Indiana.

The CDC noted MERS is clearly spread from person to person, but not in a sustained manner.

“It’s not like the flu virus, where it gets spread to multiple people each time and expands,” Dr. Swerdlow said.

At this point, the risk to the general public is considered “very minimal.” The CDC has been proactive in contacting those who have had close contact with the U.S. patients. Also, posters are going up in the three major New York-metro airports, recommending precautions for overseas travelers.

Dr. Swerdlow noted there is no vaccine for MERS, but there is an effort for treatment in progress.

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