What Michiana residents should know about MERS virus - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

What Michiana residents should know about MERS virus

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With the first case of MERS in the United States confirmed in Northwest Indiana, it prompts about questions if the Michiana area should be concerned? Infectious Disease Consultant for the IU Health Goshen Hospital Dr. Dan Nafziger says no.  Nafziger also serves as a health officer for the Elkhart County Health Department.

He says there are many other activities that residents do that pose more of a threat than this virus. "For the average person in Northern Indiana, texting while driving, much more dangerous," he said.

The individual who is being treated for the disease is at the Community Hospital in Munster.  Nafziger says this should not frighten the local communities. "For an average person in Elkhart, South Bend, or Mishawaka, there's no reason to believe they should have been exposed," he said.

He says MERS shares some similarities with SARS. The SARS virus caused a pandemic in 2003 throughout Asia. Some of the symptoms of MERS include fever, respiratory issues, shortness of breath and coughing.  Nafziger explains that these symptoms could be misleading to some. "There are lots of other illnesses that cause similar kinds of symptoms so the other thousands and thousands of people who have fever, cough and shortness of breath don't have MERS."

Nafziger says that the virus spreads from human to human interaction, specifically through respiratory droplets.  These droplets are large particles that come out of a person's mouth when talking or coughing.  He adds that these droplets only travel about three to six feet so a person would have to be in very close contact to catch the virus from an infected person.

Nafziger says he has not heard any concern from the community since the announcement of the MERS case happened on Friday afternoon. Still, he hopes residents will not be tempted to rush to the emergency room. "I would suggest taking a deep breath and relaxing first, most people are not going to be exposed to this at all and if you're not exposed to it, you can't get it," he said.

There is no vaccine for the MERS virus. The different symptoms are treated individually. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says he fears the virus could become a potential threat.

"It could evolve by mutation to get better and better at spreading among people. Thank goodness right now it doesn't do that with the exception of some very, very few family clusters," Fauci said.
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