posttrib
OMINOUS 
Weather Updates

‘How concerned should we be?’ residents ask about mysterious virus

This file phoprovided by National Institute for Allergy Infectious Diseases shows colorized transmissiMERS coronavirus themerged 2012. | AP

This file photo provided by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a colorized transmission of the MERS coronavirus that emerged in 2012. | AP

storyidforme: 65840673
tmspicid: 23520184
fileheaderid: 11493098

The MERS coronavirus that emerged in 2012. | AP

SYMPTOMS

Most people who are infected with MERS-CoV develop respiratory illness with the following symptoms:

Fever

Cough

Shortness of breath

Some people develop severe acute respiratory illness requiring hospitalization, and intubation.

Symptoms usually start two to 14 days after being exposed.

Learn more

For questions about MERS, call the Indiana State Department of Health hotline at 1 (877) 826-0011, which is being answered daily, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT. A voicemail system is available for callers to leave a message during off hours. All missed calls will be returned the following morning.

Indiana Department of Health

ON THE WEB

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome:

www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/index.html

About coronavirus:

www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/about/index.html

Frequently asked MERS questions:

www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/faq.html

Indiana State Department of Health:

www.StateHealth.in.gov

Updated: June 5, 2014 5:08PM



As the first patient in the United States diagnosed with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, continues to improve at Community Hospital in Munster, residents in the area have mixed feelings over its potential to spread.

William VanNess II, state health commissioner for the Indiana State Department of Health, said Saturday that the patient, whose name has not been released, has received “excellent care” at the Munster hospital.

“We are very pleased the patient is improving, and no other cases have been identified at this time,” VanNess II said in a release. “The swift diagnosis and precautionary measures taken have undoubtedly greatly helped reduce the risk of this potentially serious virus spreading.”

Sherie Tiernan of Hobart isn’t quite as confident in that assessment. A nurse by trade, she said she’s not as familiar with that particular strain but that communicable respiratory diseases can be bigger problems than originally anticipated.

“I think that all it may take is someone sneezing or coughing on you in line at the grocery store. It’s scary,” Tiernan said.

Dotty Vincent of Highland and Dionne Hulsey of Munster recently traveled through O’Hare International Airport — Vincent just three days before the patient returned from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They too are concerned.

“With the people in the airplane and how the air circulates, it could be deadly,” Vincent said. “If it gets around, how concerned should we be? And should visitors to Community be wearing face masks? I really am concerned.”

Representatives from Community Health Care System declined comment Saturday, but the the Indiana State Department of Health said hospital staff with direct contact prior to the patient being placed in full isolation have been taken off duty and placed in temporary home isolation. They’ll be monitored for symptoms and allowed to return to work only when the incubation period has passed and they have tested negative for MERS.

There have been no reported cases of people without symptoms transmitting the virus, according to the state health department.

Hulsey, who recently returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand noticed that at those airports, employees in the international terminals would announce over an intercom that if a traveler was feeling ill, a quarantine specialist would meet them at the gate and have them examined.

“When we returned here, I didn’t hear anyone say anything like that, and we came through the international terminal,” Hulsey said. “As someone who travels, though, I am a little freaked out by the fact that the infected person was on the airport shuttle bus, which is something I ride frequently. I can only hope that the shuttle is thoroughly cleaning their fleet.

At the same time, she hopes cool heads prevail.

“I sincerely hope people do not overreact as they did when SARS hit Toronto,” she said.

Jodie Guzman of Highland agrees that people should not panic before they know what’s going on.

“I almost feel like if I get it, it’s because I’m supposed to get it,” Guzman said. “We don’t know exactly how it’s transmitted, so what’s the point of freaking out?”

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he’s been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local public health officials in Illinois and Indiana.

“The CDC and Illinois and Indiana public health departments have responded quickly and thoroughly to this reported outbreak, and my office will continue monitoring the situation in coordination with their staffs,” Durbin said in a release. “As this example clearly shows us, in our interconnected 21st century world, a public health crisis can travel the globe in less than a day, and it is imperative that we are fully prepared to respond.”



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.