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Health officials expect more cases of MERS to arrive in US

Medical officials are working to prepare US hospitals to deal with cases of MERS.
It's a viral respiratory illness first reported in the Middle East.

Serious new warnings from disease specialists on the potentially-deadly virus that's made its way into America..
"We definitely should expect more cases of MERS to arrive in the United States."

Experts say the explosion of air-travel between the Middle East, where MERS originated, and the US, makes that more likely.
Is America ready?

Hospital officials tell us they've been warned for at least a year and have been instructed by the CDC what to do if MERS arrived.

Here's a first-line of defense: A negative-pressure isolation room, where 'mers' patients can be treated in American hospitals.
It's got a special vent that moves virus-exposed air into a super-filter.

"The idea behind it is to not circulate any germs or viruses to other parts of the hospital."

American healthcare workers have been told to heavily-screen patients who have MERS symptoms like coughing and fever, to ask them whether they've been to the Middle East recently.
They're making caregivers wear protective gloves, eyewear, gowns and: "this is the N-95 mask that our healthcare workers wear.."
A mask that provides more filtration.

These are safeguards in big-city hospitals.
But some small towns might not be as prepared because their health departments have been hit with major budget-cuts.

"We might not have the number of Epidemiologists or Laboratorians or others in the public health field who are responsible for investigating these cases or monitoring the surveillance systems that are in place to identify infectious diseases like mers."

In small towns or big cities anywhere, medical staffers are at higher risk.
"As simple a thing like washing hands with soap and water is really essential.."

Dr. Dan Lucey's an infectious disease specialist who's battled MERS in the Middle East and SARS in Asia and Canada.

He says the procedures they use to treat MERS patients are what make healthcare workers vulnerable.
"To open up the airways, there are certain medicines that are given that could aerosolize, or put a lot more virus out into the air, in the shared breathing space that healthcare workers have with their patients."