Health officials alert airports for MERS

May 29, 2014 |

Following the second diagnosis of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the U.S., The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted warnings at 22 airports across the country. According to USA Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff were also notified to be on alert for sick travelers.

While the notices were posted in airports, the CDC is not recommending passengers change vacation or business travel plans or avoid the Middle East. According to the source, the risk of contracting the virus is low, as it is believed to spread via close person-to-person contact. Those who have contracted the disease have been relatives of those who were sick as well as health care workers.

The illness has not been called a public health emergency by the World Health Organization. The CDC is only urging travelers to help prevent the spread of germs through hand washing, avoiding public surfaces and minimizing contact with potentially sick people.

There are quarantine stations for travelers experiencing symptoms, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, at major airports. Customs officials and airline crew were asked by the CDC to report passengers who feel they have a fever or have a temperature of at least 100 degrees and are on flights coming from Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, USA Today reported.

No screening recommendations have been suggested by the CDC because symptoms might have not yet developed or travelers may have another illness that isn’t MERS.

The airports with advisory posters include:

  • Los Angeles
  • Chicago O’Hare
  • John F. Kennedy
  • LaGuardia
  • Newark
  • Boston
  • San Francisco
  • Miami
  • San Diego
  • Las Vegas
  • Baltimore
  • Charlotte
  • Philadelphia
  • Detroit
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Orlando
  • Denver
  • Seattle
  • Atlanta
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Washington’s Dulles

MERS in the U.S.
MERS is a viral condition that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, according to the CDC. Those who developed the virus suffered severe acute respiratory illness and approximately 30 percent have died.

All of the reported cases were linked to the countries found in the Arabian Peninsula. While it is believed the illness spreads from close personal contact, there is no evidence of it being spread among groups of people.

The country’s first confirmed case of MERS was recorded on May 2 after a traveler arrived back in the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. The man who developed MERS is a healthcare worker who lives and works in Saudi Arabia. Following an isolation period in a hospital, he fully recovered from the illness.

According to the CDC, an Illinois resident was the first imported case of MERS on May 16 after coming into contact with the first confirmed case on two occasions after the individual was admitted to the hospital. That individual did not require medical care.

The second reported case in the U.S. was confirmed on May 11 after a traveler returned to the country following a visit in Saudi Arabia as well. That individual lived in Florida and traveled to Saudi Arabia as a healthcare worker.

The CDC said there is a low risk of MERS for those in the U.S. and there is no severe threat to the general public.