Second MERS case in U.S. confirmed

A second health care worker who traveled from Saudi Arabia to the United States has contracted the MERS coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the report of the second case, the risk of MERS infection to the general public is extremely low, CDC director Tom Frieden said during a May 12 press conference.

The patient traveled on May 1 from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to London, then to Boston and Atlanta before stopping in Orlando, Fla., to visit family. The person began to feel unwell on the first flight, had worsening symptoms on later flights and eventually developed chills, fever and a slight cough. The patient went to the hospital and was admitted on May 8. CDC officials confirmed that the patient was infected with the MERS coronavirus on May 11.

Officials estimate that the person came into contact with roughly 500 people on the U.S.-based flights before diagnosis, and those individuals are now being contacted for follow-up.

Since March 2012, the virus has infected at least 538 people worldwide and killed at least 145 (SN Online: 5/5/14). The two U.S. cases of MERS do not appear to be linked.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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