May 13, 2014 | Caitlin Rivers | Outbreak News
The CDC announced yesterday that a second case of MERS coronavirus in the United States has been identified in Florida. Worldwide there have been 538 cases and 135 deaths since the virus first emerged in humans in 2012. The Florida patient, whose sex has not been released, is a healthcare worker living and working in Saudi Arabia, where a majority of cases have been found.
On May 1 the patient traveled from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to London, and then continued on to Boston and Atlanta before reaching his or her destination in Florida. The patient experienced symptoms while traveling, but it is unclear whether he or she was infectious during that time. On May 8 the patient sought care and was admitted at an Orlando hospital. The patient is doing well.
The CDC is working in collaboration with 20 state health departments to contact travelers who shared flights with the infected patient. The incubation period for the virus is estimated to be 14 days at most, so people who shared a flight with the infected but have not yet experienced symptoms are unlikely to become sick.
The first case of MERS in the US was identified in Indiana the first week of May. A marked increase in cases in April 2014 has epidemiologists worried that the virus had mutated to become more human to human transmissible. However, samples taken from the Indiana case suggest that the virus has not mutated, and that the increase in cases is consequent to better identification of existing cases.
The CDC does expect additional cases to be imported from the Arabian Peninsula, but cautions that risk to the general public is ‘extremely low’.
Read my analysis on what it means here.
Transcript of the CDC press briefing: http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/t0512-US-MERS.html
Caitlin Rivers, MPH is a computational epidemiology student with the NetWork Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL) at Virginia Tech, and is a Department of Defense SMART scholar. Caitlin's research is currently focused on the modeling and simulation of emerging infectious disease, particularly zoonoses. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Virginia Tech. To read more from Caitlin, check out her blog.