WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI)- “The fact that it’s come over here from the Middle East is not surprising,” said Purdue Biology Professor David Sanders of the MERS virus.
It’s a virus that kills 30 percent of the patients it’s infected since it’s discovery in 2012. Now, it’s here in the Hoosier state.
Friday, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed a patient in Munster, Indiana tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
It was news that Sanders wasn’t too surprised to hear.
“Viruses spread through something that’s called the breaching of ecological barriers and one of the barriers is the Atlantic Ocean,” said Sanders.
That’s the track health officials believe the virus took.
The infected patient traveled from Saudi Arabia to London, and then to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, an airport that sees an average of 41,000 passengers a day.
“It is a virus that is transmitted through what we say is a respiratory route, which is a route through breathing,” said Sanders. “Those tend to be the viruses we are most concerned about.”
That doesn’t mean you should worry.
Structural Biology Professor Andrew Mesecar is part of a team of Purdue researchers studying the virus. He said in order for someone to become infected, you’d have to be in pretty close contact.
“As of today, it’s close to close transmission,” said Mesecar. “So, it’s not something that’s out in the wind and that we have to be really crazy about.”
Mesecar does warn, the MERS virus comes from the same virus family as SARS, which infected more than 8,000 people, killing 800 of them.
He said that’s why his team is working to find a virus inhibitor. While they have been successful, he said they still have a long way to go in finding a vaccine.
“We still don’t have a vaccine for SARS virus and it’s been over 10 years,” said Mesecar. “So, we still have a long way to go.”
Both Mesecar and Sanders said there is no need to panic. They said the MERS virus doesn’t appear as if it will turn into a pandemic like SARS.
However, they said if you’ve traveled overseas and do start having upper respiratory symptoms similar to the flu or cold, you should see a doctor.