Health official on high alert for MERS cases in VA

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Health officials are on tight watch for possible cases of the deadly MERS virus, in Virginia. The CDC reports that several Virginians shared an international flight with other infected passengers. The people must now be blood tested. Results within two days will show whether any of the passengers have MERS. If so, those people will have to be quarantined for two weeks.

The first cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome surfaced this month in the United States. Three people tested positive in Florida, Indiana and Illinois.

VCU Medical Center's chief doctor for infectious diseases, hospital epidemiologist Dr. Michael Edmond, says most people who have contracted the virus, are from the Middle East, mostly Saudi Arabia.

"Right now, the cases of this disease have been seen in people who have been in the Arabian Peninsula, or who have been in contact with somebody who had the disease who was in the Arabian Peninsula," said Dr. Edmond.

Symptoms start out like the flu with coughing, fever, aches and pains. Then, breathing troubles quickly set in.

"MERS can be quite severe. It can causes very severe lung injury in some patients," described Dr. Edmond.

It's a virus so severe that one in six people have died from it. Doctors say MERS isn't as contagious as the flu. However, you can certainly pick it up from someone coughing. As with any virus, covering your mouth and hand washing are critical to not spreading MERS.

However, Dr. Edmond says that MERS isn't a pandemic, yet. Since it first surfaced two years ago, there have been about 600 cases worldwide.

"It does spread from person to person. But at this point, that spread has been relatively limited," continued Dr. Edmond.

If you think you may have MERS, get blood tested immediately. Contact your doctor or hospital before you enter the facility. This way, caretakers can make sure that you won't spread the virus, when being treated.

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