So, I suppose this was inevitable. After following the news stories on the MERS virus for several weeks now, the report has finally come of the first US case in Munster, Indiana. For those less interested in tracking potential pandemics, MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The initial breakouts took place on the Arabian Peninsula; it is related to the SARS virus. According to Indiana’s Fox affiliate, MERS acts like a cold gone haywire, leading to possible organ failure. And though it’s in the same family as SARS, originating with an animal, it doesn’t appear to transmit as easy between humans. Thank heaven. And it sounds like the infected man is on the mend, another bright spot in an otherwise scary story. In fact, the update on the Indiana patient’s status commends the local hospital for “quickly isolating the patient and diagnosing him.” They also took correct precautions for protecting their staff and containing the virus. As crucial as it is for institutions like hospitals and local governments to have protocols in place to deal with the rapid spread of life-threatening diseases, it is individuals’ education and preparedness that make the real difference. Would you know what to do in the case of a pandemic? The same article series we’ve been quoting here includes a write-up on lessons learned from Hong Kong’s SARS experience. This portion of the article includes basic hygiene practices to stem the spread of infection. The CDC’s site, flu.gov has a specific page dedicated to pandemic education. And a county in my own home state has actually put together a fantastic little comic book on pandemic history and preparedness (you can request a hard copy, or scroll down to the bottom to download the pdf). As the weather warms up, we may feel like we’re in the clear, as far as flu season is concerned. But good hygiene practices, as well as smart preparation in the case of a break-out, are always a healthy idea! --Stacey Check out these articles for more updates on MERS "Florida MERS patient Sat in Busy ER for Hours" "Health Officials Alert Airport Customs for MERS"