Local Experts Weigh In On MERS Virus

Concern over the MERS Virus is growing after a third infection was discovered in the U.S.

Dr. Rachel Roper, a Virology Specialist at ECU's Brody School of Medicine, says everyone should be concerned about MERS, also known as the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. The virus entered the United States with a passenger on a flight from Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Roper says MERS can be transmitted through hand contact or just talking with a contagious person feet away.

"Many viruses can spread through the air in respiratory droplets," Dr. Roper explains. "When you speak you exhale the virus, but if there's any coughing or sneezing it's a very good way for the virus to get in the air. "

An Illinois man became infected after shaking hands with a health care worker from Indiana who had just returned from overseas. Health care workers who come in contact with the infected are among the most at risk.

"In general we are very, very good at our hospitals in addressing any infection concern," says Vidant Health President & CEO Dr. David Herman. "What we're doing right now is dealing with the infections and other things going on. To my knowledge, we haven't had a MERS case in Eastern Carolina or North Carolina."

572 cases have been confirmed worldwide in 18 countries. 173 people have died, though no deaths have been reported in the United States.

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