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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

MERS FAQ: What You Need to Know

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Where did this virus come from?

Public health officials believe it came from an animal but are still doing research. The virus has been found in camels in Qatar, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. It has also been found in a bat in Saudi Arabia. Officials can't say for sure if camels or bats are sources of the virus. For now, they say that camels, bats, and other animals may play a role in where the virus comes from and how it spreads.  

Is there a vaccine?

No vaccine is available.

Is anyone more susceptible to the virus?

The virus is more dangerous for people with pre-existing conditions or problems with their immune systems.

What can travelers do?

The CDC is advising people not to change their travel plans because of MERS. But it does suggest that travelers watch their health, wash their hands often, and avoid people who are sick. 

Adults should help young children wash their hands thoroughly. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good substitute if soap and water are not available.

Travelers who recently went to countries where MERS has been found should watch their health when they return. If the typical symptoms -- cough, shortness of breath, and fever -- develop within 14 days of travel to a country that has had MERS cases, travelers should contact their doctor and discuss their recent travel.

What else is known about the first U.S. cases?

They both were called “travel-associated” cases. The infections happened in Saudi Arabia, not in the U.S. Both cases involved health care workers living and working in Saudi Arabia, then traveling to the U.S. to visit family. The first was in Indiana and the second was in Orlando, FL. Both patients recovered and were released from hospitals.

Blood testing initially showed an Illinois man who met with the Indiana MERS patient was exposed to MERS, because he had developed antibodies to fight it (although he did not become sick), the CDC said May 17. However, the CDC said May 28 that more in-depth testing showed the Illinois man had not been infected.

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