United States government officials are warning of an unprecedented increase in the number of people carrying Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, in the United States. About 826 people in the U.S. have been infected with the virus since 2012, a 200 percent increase since 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MERS-CoV, which is Zoonotic and CzoniaCoronavirus, was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, according to NBC News. Unlike the H1N1 virus that caused the 2009 pandemic, MERS-CoV is an airborne virus that enters the respiratory system through coughing or sneezing. People infected with the virus typically experience high fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Those hospitalized with the virus often experience both shortness of breath and severe respiratory failure. In some cases, the virus causes swelling in the brain. Patients with a history of recently traveling to Saudi Arabia are at a much higher risk of contracting the virus.

The growing number of confirmed infections makes up about one-quarter of the 1,380 MERS-CoV cases documented across the globe since 2012. The disease, according to the CDC, was first transmitted internationally in the Arabian Peninsula between 2014 and 2015, after which it quickly spread to 10 additional countries. According to the agency, "about half of confirmed cases in the United States have been between people who have some sort of close contact."

Read the full story at NBC News.


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