Signs at Atlanta airport warn of MERS

ATLANTA -- Health officials are on alert in Georgia after revelations of two confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the U.S.

The death rate from this virus is one in four, which is why warnings are now being posted at airports across the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has the fourth highest number of travelers coming into the U.S. from the Middle East, where MERS is predominant.

The latest monthly figures show 14,567 coming through the airport from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. However, Georgia public health officials are more interested in tracking down 90 Georgians who may have had contact with a MERS patient who traveled through Atlanta from Boston.

Officials stress that it's not likely that any will be infected with the virus, but warning signs are still going up at airports in Atlanta and 21 other cities around the country.

However, warnings signs are going up in Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and 21 other airports around the country.

The second confirmed U.S. case of an infected MERS patient, a health care worker from Saudi Arabia, flew May 1 from Saudi Arabia to London, then Boston, and on to Atlanta and then Orlando.

"Altogether 90 Georgians were either on the first leg or second leg of those flights," said Dr. Patrick O'Neal of Georgia's Department of Health.

O'Neal said those people need to be contacted and checked for symptoms. So far tests on health care workers at two Orlando Hospitals, who came in contact with the confirmed patient, have not been positive for MERS. As for those 90 Georgians?

"The last I heard there were about 20 people who had not been reached yet, but we're still working to get those folks reached," O'Neal said. "With the MERS virus we don't have any vaccine against it, nor do we have any antiviral drugs,but that doesn't mean patients who develop the disease cannot be treated."

Officials say 171 people have died from the virus, all overseas. The advice for travelers? Wash hands often, avoid touching your face and avoid close contact with sick people.


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