Posted: May 15, 2014

Travel Alert: MERS Warnings Displayed in 22 US Airports
The MERS virus originated in Saudi Arabia.

Twenty two international airports across the United States are now posting warning materials about Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

MERS is a viral respiratory illness that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and can potentially be fatal, according to the CDC. The relatively new virus is source of concern for business travelers and those making their way to the destination should exercise caution.

There have been 571 confirmed cases of MERS all linked to countries in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the World Health Organization. Two men in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the virus, and both were travelers who came to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. However, the cases are not linked. It has been confirmed that both patients are health care providers who were working in the Middle Eastern country.

"We wanted to reach the majority of travelers going to and coming back from Arabian Peninsula," said Christine Pearson from the CDC. "The signs will display information so passengers can protect themselves while they're traveling and know what to look out for when they get back."

Public health professionals strongly urge people who travel to the Arabian Peninsula (Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Bahrain, Iran and Iraq) to wash their hands frequently, avoid touching their face and avoid close contact with sick people. 

The symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. While exhibiting flu-like symptoms, MERS doesn't spread like the flu. Although the illness is major concern for those traveling to the Middle East, MERS does not constitute a global health emergency. 

The CDC and other public health partners are continuing to investigate the MERS virus in the U.S. While people should exercise caution, the CDC reassures that at this point the two cases of the virus in the U.S. present a very low risk to the general public. 

"If you get sick within 14 days of being in the Arabian Peninsula, call a doctor and tell the doctor where you traveled," the advisory says.

The CDC does not recommend people change their travel plans, it wrote on its website concerning the travel news. People who have trips scheduled to the Arabian Peninsula should be on the lookout for any further information. 

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