The Centers for Disease Control have reported the nation’s second case of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a coronavirus lethal in approximately 30% of cases. The first US MERS patient was a health care worker in Indiana. He has now been cleared as virus-free and returned home, although his close contacts remain in quarantine for now.
Today’s MERS patient also works in the health care field, according to CNN, and is located in Florida. An ongoing news conference will be reported shortly. The location may cause special concern for several reasons:
Of the state’s population, 18.2% are over 65 years of age, vs. 13.7% and these numbers are growing. With the increasing fragility of aging, this group is especially vulnerable to MERS and other respiratory illnesses, in terms of both acquiring them and not surviving them.
Other factors mark the elderly as a risk group. First, COPD and other respiratory illnesses plague this generation. Almost 15% of deaths in the US occur from lower respiratory diseases (excluding cancer). Immunocompromise is concerning within the older population, as is their more acute need to use medical devices and services, including hospitals.
As noted in our earlier PlanetSave article on MERS, the virus has been found in both Egyptian tomb bats and camels, with the latter thought to be the source of transmission to humans. Human-to-human transmission has occurred only in isolated cases limited to health care workers and people close to those who have fallen ill.
MERS is related to both the common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a disease that started in China and killed almost a thousand people in 37 nations between November 2002 and July 2003.
BASIC PUBLIC HEALTH RECOMMENDATIONS
Wash your hands often, preferably with soap and water for 20 seconds,
Use alcohol-based sanitizers when sink facilities are unavailable,
Avoid close contact with people who are sick,
Don’t spread germs by touching your eyes, nose, and/or mouth, and
Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Health care experts advise that vaccination against influenza and pneumonia may provide some respiratory protection.