PALO ALTO (KCBS)— Last week’s hospitalization of an Indiana man with what’s known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS has California public health officials taking a closer look at the local risk levels.

Doctors have known about a deadly respiratory virus that up until recently had only been in the Middle East. The man in the case in Indiana is expected to recover, but even so, California doctors are paying closer attention to respiratory viruses.

California isn’t necessarily more susceptible to the deadly MERS infection, but we certainly have a well-traveled population, which is why doctors are conducting conference calls to see how they can better track infectious diseases.

Dr. Bonnie Maldonado is chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Stanford’s Packard Children’s Hospital. She said it is the nature of their facility for kids to come in with a lot of respiratory illnesses.

“We screen all our children and their visitors for respiratory symptoms and we take precautions in general at any time. We’re actually at the national and global level developing case definitions to try to screen people and particularly the travel history of that person,” she said.

MERS isn’t spread through casual contact, but the number of cases around the world has been going up, which is why experts fear it’s just a matter of time before it shows up here in California.


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