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MERS-CoV is the latest form of the SARS virus. Even though it is not the same virus, symptoms are similar and it comes from the same family. This virus has spread through travelers who have had contact with the Middle East, and has claimed the lives of 27 people so far. Here is what you need to know:
Cluster Cases. The disease has been seen in cases of clusters being transmitted between family members or in a healthcare setting. “Human-to-human transmission occurred in at least some of these clusters, however, the exact mode of transmission is unknown” said the World Health Organization. It is unclear yet how humans contract MERS-CoV, but experts say there has been no evidence of cases beyond the clusters into communities. Middle Eastern Origin. Each case of this new virus is connected to the Middle East. On May 17th, the World Health Organization made a statement “All of the European cases have had a direct or indirect connection to the Middle East. However, in France and the United Kingdom, there has been limited local transmission among close contacts that had not been to the Middle East, but have been in contact with a traveler recently returned from the Middle East.” Specific Patients. Most cases so far have been seen in older men with other medical conditions. Large numbers of patients have another condition. According to the WHO, the infection has shown up “atypically” and without respiratory symptoms in people whose immune systems are compromised. No Travel Restrictions. So far, no travel warnings have been issued by the World Health Organization or the CDC. The CDC issued a statement that recommends that US travelers see their doctor if they are experiencing symptoms of the disease (fever, lower respiratory illness including cough or shortness of breath) and let them know about their recent travels. No Vaccine or Treatment. As of yet, there are no treatments and no vaccine. So far, those who have contracted MERS-CoV have received treatments to relieve their symptoms.
In order to prevent exposure to this and other viruses, be sure to wash your hands frequently - especially during mealtimes - and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your carry-on for those places where soap and water aren't readily available. Also, it might be a good idea to keep a flu prevention kit, or at least a couple face masks handy while you travel - just in case.