The deadly MERS virus, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has its first confirmed case in the United States. This virus is known to kill 1 out of every 3 people it infects. This could be a severe deadly pandemic.
An infected health worker based out of Saudi Arabia arrived in the United States and visited the emergency room on April 28th. This last Friday the CDC confirmed this is the first case of MERS in the US.
The most recent reports say that the patient is recovering and may soon be released. There are no other confirmed cases in the US but the CDC is working to monitor any persons that he may have had contact with.
The MERS virus popped up in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The CDC reports 401+ cases in 13 different countries.
According to Arabnews.com the death toll in Saudi Arabia has just risen to 115 with a mortality rate of over 40%.
The CDC is still working to determine exactly how the MERS virus is spread but it’s believed to spread to humans through infected camels. Primarily from direct contact, consuming camel meat, or drinking camel milk.
While the MERS virus can travel from human to human it isn’t believed to be highly transmittable from human to human. At this time there are no vaccines or anti-viral treatments for the MERS virus.
What Is Our Risk?
At this time the CDC states that the risk to Americans is “low”. They aren’t recommending any changes in travel plans but do state that anyone traveling or who has visited countries around the Arabian Peninsula to seek medical advice should they develop flu or pneumonia like symptoms.
The case of the traveling doctor – as I’m calling it – likely won’t be the only case of the MERS virus entering the US.
This excerpt from SFgate.com’s article by Erin Allday about California’s response shows that public health officials are taking this threat seriously.
California public health officials have been on alert for possible patients since the first reports in 2012. The state has performed testing for suspected MERS infection on 25 patients; none of those patients were positive for the virus, according to the California Department of Public Health.
“You will almost certainly see additional cases in the U.S. because of the amount of travel here,” said Dr. Charles Chiu, head of the viral diagnostics laboratory at UCSF. “Even in the past month, cases have been reported in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia. We saw the first case in Egypt. With global travel, there’s always the possibility of seeing additional cases in the United States, and especially California with large hubs in San Francisco and L.A.
“I’m frankly a little surprised it hasn’t occurred earlier.”
You can read the entire article here: http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/1st-MERS-virus-case-in-U-S-concerns-California-5452707.php#page-1
What Could The Future Impact of The MERS Virus Be?
Just recently new cases of the MERS virus seemed to level out. But in the last month the number of cases has had a dramatic increase. There have been as many new cases in April as all the previous months and years since first reported in September of 2012.
This could be due to environmental and seasonal factors but scientists are still trying to understand this virus. And why it’s suddenly spreading so quickly.
Could it be possible that the virus is adapting? Becoming more easily transmittable?
A virus mutation is a huge concern especially when you factor in the high mortality rate of this virus. It’s important we know what to do to limit our chance of exposure and death in the chance the MERS virus mutates and spreads on a pandemic scale.
Surviving a Pandemic
We live in a global society where we’re constantly exposed to people who have recently visited all corners of the globe. This leaves us especially vulnerable to a large-scale transmission of a viral epidemic.
The flu pandemic of 1918 killed roughly 3-5 percent of the world’s population and it was spread primarily by boat! Now we have approximately 50,000 commercial flights airborne at any given time! That’s roughly 3 million people moving from place to place – daily – to transmit disease and sickness.
Let’s talk about what you can do to prepare to survive a pandemic:
The more you have to go out for supplies the more you risk exposing yourself to the pandemic. Most pandemics burn themselves out through a community within 6-8 weeks. Consider supplies to cover at a minimum that length of time.
Supplies may be limited even after it’s cleared through a community and the occasional straggler could come back. For added security doubling your stockpile to 16 weeks (4 months) of supplies is a good idea.
The biggest key to survival is to not become exposed to the pathogen. Keep your distance and avoid any places where people congregate. A 6-foot radius between you and anyone else – should you have to go out – greatly decrease the possibility of transmission.
Seal off your home and hunker down if possible during a large-scale outbreak. People may come to you asking for help … be prepared to protect yourself and your “safety zone”.
Disinfection and Sterilization
It’s important to practice good hygiene … especially during cold and flu season. Doctors recommend washing your hands regularly with antibiotic soap. This will be even more important during a pandemic. Hand sanitizers will likely be your best friend in the case of an outbreak. Keep your environment clean and sanitary as well.
Hospitals, Medical Facilities, and Shelters
These places will likely be ground zero for pandemic transmission. There will be the heroic doctors, staff, nurses, and other volunteers who risk their lives to treat the sick and dying. Personally I won’t be one of them.
If there’s an active large-scale pandemic outbreak you will not find me close to any places where there are lots of sick, or potentially sick people.
Wear Protective Clothing and Mask
If you have to venture out then protective clothing – full cover – and N95 masks can help limit your chance of exposure. Full cover clothing will help protect your skin from direct exposure. Remove all clothing when you’re home and sterilize the clothing.
N95 masks are helpful to deter infection but are not foolproof! They do not make you immune.
Of course using your smarts should give you the best chance of surviving a pandemic. Pandemics have happened, and will happen again.
Staying fit will help aid you in any survival situation, especially during a pandemic. You may be confined to the indoors but you can still find ways to keep your body in shape. Lift weights, do light cardio, pushups and other exercises that are easy to do indoors.
Don’t forget about your mental health. Keeping yourself occupied may be a challenge, but it’s important to ‘stay busy’. I have a lot of home improvement supplies so I could work on my house, paint rooms, repair drywall and find plenty I could “fix up”. Games and reading can also help keep your mind fit.
Staying fit can give your body the ability to survive and fight off the virus should you get infected.