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A colorized transmission of the MERS coronavirus that first emerged in 2012. Health officials on Monday, May 12, 2014 confirmed a second U.S. case of the mysterious virus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East.
The CDC reported Monday a second case of Middle East Respiratory System (MERS) coronavirus found in the US. The virus was detected in an Orlando patient who had traveled from Saudi Arabia and is now in a Central Florida Hospital.

The first case involved a man who was visiting Saudi Arabia and flew into Highland, Indiana earlier this month. He was released just days ago from a northwestern Indiana hospital after officials determined he no longer carried the virus.

"The patient has tested negative for MERS, is no longer symptomatic and poses no threat to the community," the hospital said in a statement.

He is now considered to be fully recovered and none of those tracked with whom he made contact have shown signs of being infected by the virus.

Both men were health care workers in Saudi Arabia, which may have established the close contact needed for contracting MERS.

"Our experience with MERS so far suggests that the risk to the general public is extremely low," said the director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden. "Transmission requires close contact -- for example, caring for someone when they're sick at home or sick in the hospital."

The Turner Radio Network reported a possible third case may have appeared in the Washington DC area last Tuesday.

"In the greater Washington area, a patient traveling from Saudi Arabia last month is suspected of having MERS and is now hospitalized at Children's National Medical Center," said Aegis Health Security in a statement about the DC case. "The patient is isolated as the CDC follows testing and evaluation protocols."

"Hospital management and health care practitioners may or may not officially confirm or deny the existence of a patient being evaluated at this time," Aegis said in their release.

The MERS respiratory virus has infected 480 people in Saudi Arabia and killed 139 since it appeared in 2012. The WHO reports that the virus has killed 37% of its victims while the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control reports a 28% death rate from their statistics.

The coronavirus family includes MERS, SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, and the common cold. Some of the MERS symptoms are similar to SARS. It causes lung infection and fever but differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure. While the MERS virus can be transmitted from person to person, it is not as easily transmitted to the general public. It is considered less transmissible than the SARS virus, which made headlines and generated hysteria when it infected 8,273 people and caused 775 deaths from 2002-2003.

Could the appearance of MERS be leading to a similar hype?

Manufacturing panic is common in Western media because of the prevalence of normalcy bias. In the book You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney writes,

Normalcy Bias

THE MISCONCEPTION: Your fight-or-flight instincts kick in and you panic when disaster strikes.

THE TRUTH: You often become abnormally calm and pretend everything is normal in a crisis.

If you knew a horrific mile-wide force of nature was headed toward your home, what would you do? Would you call your loved ones? Would you head outside and look for the oncoming storm? Would you leap into a bathtub and cover yourself with a mattress?

No matter what you encounter in life, your first analysis of any situation is to see it in the context of what is normal for you and then compare and contrast the new information against what you know usually happens. Because of this, you have a tendency to interpret strange and alarming situations as if they were just part of business as usual. [...]

Regular media over-hyping and panic-building over issues like Y2K, swine flu, SARS, and the like help fuel normalcy bias on a global scale. Pundits on both sides of politics warn of crises that can be averted only by voting one way or the other. With so much crying wolf, it can be difficult to determine in the frenzied information landscape when to be alarmed, when it really is not a drill.
A constant bombardment of hyped-up diseases and fake terror threats leads to tragic misjudgment of disaster when it does happen and impairs natural abilities to respond. There are real threats, but when significant threats are ignored and minor or non-existent dangers are exaggerated or fabricated from whole cloth, the result is hysteria and paralysis.

Laura Knight-Jadczyk writes in her article, Transmarginal Inhibition:
In a state of hysteria, a human being is abnormally suggestible and influences in the environment can cause one set of behavior patterns to be replaced by another without any need for persuasive indoctrination. In states of fear and excitement, normally sensible human beings will accept the most wildly improbably suggestions.
The best defence against viruses is to take regular pro-active action. And how best to do that than by changing the one thing you can control and the only thing that truly works to cure disease:

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