MERS Virus Outbreak and How It Impacts Wyoming

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The MERS virus you've been hearing about, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has made it's way here across the U.S. border in two reported cases.

World Health Organization officials say many of the 571 worldwide cases have occured in Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries.

However, experts are saying it's hardly a concern to Wyoming residents. Though, Wyoming Department of Health experts are taking precautions.

The two infected with the MERS virus in the U.S. are both health care professionals who had just returned from Saudi Arabia. Though, health experts say the virus isn't totally new.

Executive Director Dr. Kelly Weidenbach of Casper Health says, "it's very similar to the SARS outbreak that we saw coming out of asia a few years back."

Dr. Weidenbach says MERS has the ability to cause trouble to the respiratory system. In fact, there are currently 171 reported deaths from the virus overseas.

"Symptoms include trouble breathing and it can cause fever. Just very similar to the common cold, but can be more severe."

And it can take as little as five days for the virus to turn into a lethal matter.

"That's the point from which you were exposed to the virus until it caused the very first symptoms."

Wyoming health officials say it's not much of a concern for Wyoming residents.

Kim Deti, PIO for Wyoming Dept. of Health says, "the risk to the general public right now is really pretty low. We're not recommending special precautions at this time for people in Wyoming."

However, medical experts want the public to know they are taking precautions in the event of an outbreak.

"Our Wyoming Public Health laboratory is prepared to test for the MERS virus, and we also want people to know we're really kind of monitoring the situation and keeping track of whar's going on with that and what might be recommended by national experts."

Luckily, scientists say MERS is a virus that's not easily contracted.

Dr. Weidenbach says, "in order to become infected, you have to have very close and lengthy contact with somebody who's infected. So, it's not transmitted very easily."

Wyoming health officials want the public to know if considering foreign travel, particularly to other parts of the world, they suggest checking for health-related travel advisories.

Any advisories can be found on the center for disease control and prevention website at