A University of California-Berkeley student died from a rare coronavirus that experts said was suspected to be the same virus that led to two people being killed on the SARS-like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.
Two more U.S. cases of this same virus were reported this week.
While most cases are mild, in some cases doctors have seen patients develop complications that are as severe as those that can be caused by the flu. There have been 18 cases of coronavirus in the United States, and two have died, according to a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“People should be vigilant for any unexplained respiratory symptoms, including possible fever and cough,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, an assistant secretary of health. “The CDC has determined that people travelling abroad are especially at risk of developing an MERS illness.”
These include people returning from visiting countries such as Saudi Arabia, where hospitals report rising cases of both MERS and the coronavirus, known as MERS-CoV.
Health officials have said that they do not know whether MERS could ever develop a further, catastrophic form that would kill people; however, they have said that any emergence of such a new kind of virus is a serious health concern.
As more suspected cases of MERS have been identified in the United States, foreign health officials have rushed to cooperate in efforts to trace where the virus was first isolated. In July, when the first cases were identified in humans in Saudi Arabia, health officials in Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom — where the virus first appeared — started contacting hospitals, health-care workers and family members.
At Berkeley, officials said that the incubation period for MERS has stretched from 12 to 18 days, during which the virus in the virus can spread. They recommended that patients who may have been in contact with the student to be tested and told health-care workers who might have had contact with the victim to be treated and monitored for symptoms.
“We have been supporting efforts in both the United States and Saudi Arabia to trace the source of MERS,” said Dr. Ronald F. Davis, chief medical officer at the California Department of Public Health. “In the United States, health professionals who have been identified with possible exposure have been advised to be tested and follow up by taking precautions.”