Second U.S. case of deadly MERS virus identified in Florida

BY Jaywon Choe  May 12, 2014 at 1:47 PM EST
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Photo by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Photo by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. health officials have confirmed that a second case of the deadly MERS virus has reached American shores – this time in Florida.

The Centers for Disease Control did not identify the infected individual but said the virus was contracted overseas and then brought to the United States. The circumstances are similar to those in the first recorded U.S. case, which involved an Indiana man who was hospitalized earlier this month after returning from Saudi Arabia.

MERS, also known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, was first discovered in Saudi Arabia and has taken a significant toll there. Since 2012, nearly 500 people have contracted the illness and another 133 have died. Moreover, the rate of infection has seen a sharp spike over the last two months. According to Reuters, the number of cases doubled in April and has already risen an additional 25 percent in May.

The virus belongs to the same family as the deadly SARS virus, which killed roughly 800 people globally in 2003. It presents with similar symptoms, including coughing, fever and pneumonia.

While the CDC has expressed serious concern over the virus, it says Americans are not at risk of contracting the illness here in the United States. It does urge travelers to take precautions if visiting the Middle East but says there are no needs to change travel plans.