Lately, there has been significant media coverage about a virus called “MERS,” which is an acronym for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.  Similar in structure to the virus that causes the common cold, MERS is a rare coronavirus that can cause a respiratory illness in humans and animals, but it causes a very severe illness and possibly even death.  The MERS virus is a new strain of coronavirus that infected patients in the Middle East beginning in 2012.  To date, there have been cases in Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Aram Emirates, and Yemen.  There have also been cases in Europe, Africa, and three cases in the United States.  A person is most likely to become severely ill if he or she has a chronic illness or is on medication that suppresses the immune system.  Anyone with fever, chills, and an acute severe respiratory illness who has traveled to the Arabian Peninsula within 14 days or come in contact with a person known to have the disease should be evaluated for possible MERS infection.