Second US Case of MERS Has Boston Connection

A colorized transmission of the MERS coronavirus that emerged in 2012.
A colorized transmission of the MERS coronavirus that emerged in 2012. –AP

A second person in the US sickened with the respiratory illness Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, traveled through Boston last week.

The infected health care worker, who is now in Florida, traveled from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on May 1, and stopped in London, Boston and Atlanta before arriving in Orlando, Fla., WCVB reported.

The Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the man’s diagnosis Monday. The rare virus has already sickened hundreds in the Middle East.

Massachusetts public health officials say there’s very low concern that the virus has spread to the state but they were notifying flight passengers as a precaution, The Boston Globe reported.

"We haven't seen cases yet where the virus has spread among passengers on a plane," said Dr. Larry Madoff, director of epidemiology and immunization at the state Department of Public Health. "Usually there has to be close contact like family members or doctors providing treatment to infected individuals for the virus to spread."

According to the CDC, MERS is a form of coronavirus which is in the same family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. It was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.

The most common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The virus is contagious and 30 percent of those infected with the illness die. The CDC says its concerned about the virus and its ability to spread through close contact with someone infected with the illness

The government agency does not know the source of the virus, but some cases have been found in bats and camels.

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