1st MERS Case Reported in U.S.05/02/14
FRIDAY, May 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The first case of a
deadly respiratory virus that initially surfaced in the Middle East
two years ago has been diagnosed in the United States, federal
health officials announced Friday.
The unidentified patient, a health care professional who had
been working in Saudi Arabia, is being treated at a hospital in
Indiana. Saudi Arabia is the epicenter of the viral outbreak of
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), officials said.
MERS kills about a quarter of the people who contract the virus,
Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of National Center for Immunizations
and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, said during an afternoon news conference.
Schuchat called the infected individual "a very low risk to the
In some countries, the virus has spread from person to person
through close contact, such as caring for or living with an
infected person. But, there's currently no evidence of sustained
spread of MERS in general settings, the CDC said.
"The virus has not shown the ability to spread easily in a community setting," Schuchat said.
The patient is in isolation and in stable condition, Schuchat
said. The person is receiving oxygen, but is not on a
Schuchat would not name the Indiana hospital, provide the
patient's age or gender, or say what role the person serves as a
health care professional.
CDC and Indiana health officials don't yet know how the patient
became infected with the virus, but say it's very likely that it
happened in Saudi Arabia.
Officials also don't know how many people had close contact with
the patient, but say there is no evidence at this time that the
virus has spread to anyone else.
The patient took a plane on April 24 from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
to London, then from London to Chicago. The patient next took a bus
from Chicago to Indiana. On April 27, the patient started
experiencing "respiratory symptoms," and was admitted to the
Indiana hospital the next day, the CDC said.
Because of the patient's symptoms -- shortness of breath,
coughing and fever -- and travel history, Indiana health officials
tested for MERS and confirmed the infection Friday afternoon, the
CDC officials said.
CDC officials are working with the airline and the bus company
to track down people who may have come in contact with the patient,
To date, there have been 401 confirmed cases of MERS in 12
countries, but all the cases originated in six countries in the
Arabian Peninsula. Ninety-three people have died. Officials don't
know where the virus came from or how it spreads. Currently, there
is no available vaccine or recommended treatment for the virus, the
"In this interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS to make its way to the United States," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. "We have been preparing since 2012 for this possibility."
People who come down with respiratory illness within 12 weeks of
traveling to Saudi Arabia should notify their doctor, Schuchat
said. The same goes for someone who becomes ill after contact with
a person who has recently traveled to Saudi Arabia.
However, the CDC has not recommended that anyone change their
travel plans based on the MERS virus, she said.
Camels have been identified as carriers of MERS, but it's not
known how the virus is being spread to people.
Dr. Debra Spicehandler, an infectious disease expert at Northern
Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., said, "MERS is very
similar to the SARS cases we saw a few years ago. It is dangerous
and is associated with acute respiratory illness. It can be spread
from person to person in close contact, and there is no treatment
for it at this point."
For more on MERS, visit the
World Health Organization.
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