LA County on high alert for threat of MERS

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Los Angeles County hospitals and infectious disease experts are on high alert for MERS — Middle East Respiratory Syndrome — as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday confirmed the second case of the disease in the US.

This case was confirmed in a health care worker who recently traveled from Saudi Arabia, where there have been 450 cases of the disease, including 112 deaths. He’s now quarantined in a Florida hospital and doing well, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said during a call with reporters.

This case was not related to the first confirmed case of MERS in the country, which was confirmed in Indiana on May 2 in a health care worker who had traveled to Saudi Arabia, said Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Anne Schuchat.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has alerted hospitals and infectious disease experts to be on the lookout for MERS symptoms, especially in people who have recently traveled to the Arabian Peninsula, County Health Officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding told KPCC.

RELATED: CDC confirms first case of MERS virus in America

"We think it’s really important to err on the side of caution in these situations, so that’s why we’ve been responding very quickly to any call from an emergency room or hospital indicating someone who has the set of symptoms and signs that could be" MERS, Fielding said.

In California as of Monday, 28 people with suspected MERS have been reported to the California Department of Public Health, which said all have tested negative.

Symptoms of MERS include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Almost one-third of people sickened with the disease have died.

Fielding says the disease is not easily transmitted – it’s mainly spread through close contact – but it’s still a major public health concern.

"We have to treat any novel disease – especially one with a significant mortality rate that is communicable, even though it’s not terribly communicable, as a serious priority," he said.

CDC Fact Sheet on MERS

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