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Rawlings: No high alert

MERS-CoV being monitored

PRINCETON — Health officials across the country, state and Bureau County are continuing to monitor the appearance of the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the United States.

The first case of MERS in the United States was confirmed May 2 in Indiana and involved a traveler who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia. A second imported case of MERS in the United States was reported May 11 in Florida and involved a traveler from Saudi Arabia who had no connection with the first case. The third case involved an Illinois resident who was considered to have had close contact with the first case.

On Monday, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said the risk to the general public becoming infected with MERS-CoV still remains low. It was out of an abundance of caution that the IDPH conducted a rigorous follow-up with the Illinois individual and have identified this person to have been infected with MERS-CoV at one time. Previous MERS-CoV illnesses have not shown to be spread easily from person-to-person in communities, Hasbrouck said.

“The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), working with our local health departments, will remain vigilant for any new MERS-CoV infections and
we are prepared with surveillance, guidance and testing to handle any additional infections,” Hasbrouck said.

On Monday, Bureau/Putnam County Health Department Director Diana Rawlings said the local health departments are not on high alert at this time. The monitoring of the MERS-CoV is being followed, and any developments are being tracked. The IDPH has sent out information to doctors about the continuing surveillance and for what symptoms to watch. She is not overly concerned at this time about any widespread MERS-CoV outbreak, Rawlings said.

As with MERS-CoV and other respiratory illnesses, the important thing to remember is for people to follow basic good health principals, like the frequent washing of hands, covering up coughs, staying away from people who are sick as much as possible, and disinfecting frequently touched areas, Rawlings said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 70 percent of the people who get infected with MERS-CoV will have mild, cold-like symptoms, like fever, cough and shortness of breath, Rawlings said. The studies show that the 30 percent who have died from the illness are those with underling health issues, she said.

Fortunately, there is a wonderful health surveillance system in the United States and even across the world, Rawlings said. The local health department will keep the public informed of any changes or updates of which they need to be aware, she said.

The IDPH has reactivated the medical staff at Illinois Poison Center to operate the MERS-CoV hotline. Illinois residents and medical professionals who have concerns or questions should call 844 565-0256.

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