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MERS Virus Appears To Have Jumped From Human To Human In U.S.

This undated file electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows novel coronavirus particles, also known as the MERS virus, colorized in yellow.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus appears to have jumped from one human to another for the first time in United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a press release that an Illinois man has preliminarily tested positive for the MERS antibodies after he had contact with an Indiana man who contracted the virus abroad.

NPR's Joe Neel, who listened in on a CDC conference call, tells us:

"This marks the first known transmission of the MERS virus in the U.S. and the third known case of MERS infection in the country.

"In early May, the man had two meetings with an Indiana man on business who is believed to be the first U.S. case and had extensive and close face to face contact. That man worked in a hospital in Saudi Arabia, where more than 500 people have been hospitalized with MERS."

The CDC says it will continue to monitor the situation, but is not making any changes to its recommendations to the public, travelers and healthcare providers.

Our friends at Shots put together a post that explains the MERS virus. Here are a couple of key questions they answered:

"What is it?Middle East respiratory syndrome, a new and potentially fatally virus from the same family as the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome virus (SARS).

"Who's been diagnosed:The first cases were diagnosed in 2012 in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. As of May 2014, there have been more than 490 MERS diagnoses (and over 140 deaths) in Saudi Arabia. Dozens more cases have been found throughout the Middle East and in seven other countries, with two in the U.S., and cases also in France, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Tunisia and the U.K. In both the United States and the U.K, patients had been in the Middle E

"Why now?Unclear. In April, officials saw a sharp uptick of MERS cases; many involved human-to-human transmission. This rise in numbers could just be because we're more aware of the illness and are better at detecting the virus."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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