BWI, other airports adding MERS warning signs

Signs warn those going to the Arabian peninsula

BALTIMORE - Baltimore/Washington International Airport and 21 other airports across the country are adding MERS warning signs at TSA checkpoints, according to an airline travel website.

The signs warn travelers going to the Arabian peninsula about MERS -- Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The signs were requested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (See the full poster here.)

MERS is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and cough but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death.

Most cases have been in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Middle East. But last month, the first U.S. case was diagnosed in a man who traveled from Saudi Arabia to Indiana.

That man, an American, was a health-care worker at a hospital in Saudi Arabia's capital city who flew to the United States on April 24 on a plane that originated in Riyadh, stopped in London and then landed in Chicago. After landing in the United States, the man took a bus to Indiana where he became sick and went to a hospital on April 28.

He improved and was released from a hospital last week. Tests of people who were around the man have all proved negative, health officials have said.

The second person diagnosed in the U.S. was a health care worker from Saudi Arabia where MERS cases were being treated, the CDC said.

He traveled on May 1 on flights from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, first to London, then to Boston, then to Atlanta, and finally to Orlando. He went to a hospital on May 8 and was placed in isolation.

Health officials are trying to contact as many as 500 people who were on the three flights within the United States to let them know the situation and watch for symptoms. People on the flight from Jeddah to London will also be contacted, CDC officials said.

The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials don't know how it is spreading to humans. It can spread from person to person, but officials believe that happens only after close contact. Not all those exposed to the virus become ill.

Overall, 538 people have been reported to have the respiratory illness, including 145 people who have died. So far, all had ties to the Middle East region or to people who traveled there.

The airport warning signs are going up at BWI and:

* New York (JFK)

* Newark (EWR)

* LaGuardia (LGA)

* Los Angeles (LAX)

* Chicago (ORD)

* Washington (IAD)

* Houston (IAH)

* Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)

*Denver (DIA)

* Atlanta (ATL)

* San Francisco (SFO)

* Seattle (SEA)

* Miami (MIA)

* Orlando (MCO)

* Boston (BOS)

* Minneapolis/St Paul (MSP)

* Detroit (DTW)

* San Diego (SAN)

* Philadelphia (PHL)

* Charlotte (CLT)

* Las Vegas (LAS)

* Baltimore (BWI)

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