RICHMOND -- State health officials are investigating whether several Virginians may have been exposed to Middle East respiratory syndrome or MERS.

Dr. Laurie Forlano, the deputy state epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health, tells 13 News Now that they are monitoring 'several' Virginians who were on airplanes and may have come into contact with people who were sick.

She stresses that no cases have been confirmed in Virginia and they're keeping track of each region of the state, including Hampton Roads.

Dr. Forlano says 'If a doctor suspects that their patient may have MERS, they have to notify the local health department. The Virginia Department of Health then works with clinicians to determine whether testing for MERSis necessary.'

It takes anywhere from 24-48 hours to get results from those tests.

Three people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with MERS: a man in Orlando, Florida, one in Indiana and one in Illinois.

Overall, about 600 people worldwide have had the respiratory illness and about 175 people have died.

Dr. Forlano says she has faith that the military is currently working on future vaccinations for American service members who travel to the Arabian Peninsula.

A Portsmouth Naval spokesperson tells 13News Now they have not heard of a vaccine being created for MERS, but they have developed a test for it.

Meantime, the US Navy Bureau of Medicine & Surgery tweeted at 12:20 p.m. 'Military treatment facilities @USNavy & @USMC Public Health Center released guidance on #MERSCoV.' Click here to read that information.

MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. It was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.

Health officials say there is no vaccine or cure and there's no specific treatment except to relieve symptoms, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Not all those exposed to the virus become ill.

More information MERS from the Centers for Disease Control

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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