First U.S. case of MERS confirmed
- The patient is a health care provider who traveled to Saudi Arabia
- MERS coronavirus was first reported in 2012 in the Middle East
- Saudi officials have noted a recent spike in cases
(CNN) — The first U.S. case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus has been reported in Indiana, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
The patient is a health-care provider who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia to provide health care, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general with the U.S. Public Health Service and director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
The person, an American male, traveled on April 24 from Riyadh to London, then to Chicago, and took a bus to Indiana, officials said. He began experiencing shortness of breath, coughing, and fever on April 27, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
The patient was admitted to Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, on April 28, the same day he visited the emergency department there, the health department said. He has been isolated and is in stable condition. He is receiving oxygen support, but does not require a ventilator, Schuchat said.
The virus poses a “very low risk to the broader general public,” Schuchat said, as it has not been shown to spread easily from person to person.
The CDC and the Indiana State Department of Health are conducting a joint investigation into the case, according to a CDC statement. The CDC confirmed Indiana test results on Friday.
“The CDC, IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) and CDPH (Chicago Department of Public Health) do not consider passengers on the flight or bus to be close contacts of the patient and therefore are not at high risk,” said Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the IDPH.
Passengers on the same plane and bus as the patient will be contacted by the CDC as a precautionary measure, starting Saturday, the Illinois statement said. If the CDC identifies ill individuals with possible MERS-CoV, it will notify health officials in Chicago and Indiana.
“There is no reason to suspect any current risk to travelers or employees at O’Hare Airport at this time,” said CDPH commissioner Bechara Choucair.
The coronavirus, known as MERS-CoV, was first reported in the Middle East — specifically, the Arabian Peninsula — in 2012.
Laboratory testing has confirmed 262 cases of the coronavirus in 12 countries, including the Indiana case, Schuchat said. Ninety-three people have died.
So far, all MERS cases have been linked to six countries on or near the Arabian Peninsula, Schuchat said.
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Embargoed Until: Friday, May 2, 2014, 3:30 PM ET
Contact: CDC Media Relations
CDC announces first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus infection (MERS) in the United States
MERS case in traveler from Saudi Arabia hospitalized in Indiana
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was confirmed today in a traveler to the United States. This virus is relatively new to humans and was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
“We’ve anticipated MERS reaching the US, and we’ve prepared for and are taking swift action,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “We’re doing everything possible with hospital, local, and state health officials to find people who may have had contact with this person so they can be evaluated as appropriate. This case reminds us that we are all connected by the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. We can break the chain of transmission in this case through focused efforts here and abroad.”
On April 24, the patient traveled by plane from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to London, England then from London to Chicago, Illinois. The patient then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. On the 27th, the patient began to experience respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, coughing, and fever. The patient went to an emergency department in an Indiana hospital on April 28th and was admitted on that same day. The patient is being well cared for and is isolated; the patient is currently in stable condition. Because of the patient’s symptoms and travel history, Indiana public health officials tested for MERS-CoV. The Indiana state public health laboratory and CDC confirmed MERS-CoV infection in the patient this afternoon.
“It is understandable that some may be concerned about this situation, but this first U.S. case of MERS-CoV infection represents a very low risk to the general public,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases. In some countries, the virus has spread from person to person through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. However, there is currently no evidence of sustained spread of MERS-CoV in community settings.
CDC and Indiana health officials are not yet sure how the patient became infected with the virus. Exposure may have occurred in Saudi Arabia, where outbreaks of MERS-CoV infection are occurring. Officials also do not know exactly how many people have had close contact with the patient.
So far, including this U.S. importation, there have been 401 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection in 12 countries. To date, all reported cases have originated in six countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Most of these people developed severe acute respiratory illness, with fever, cough, and shortness of breath; 93 people died. Officials do not know where the virus came from or exactly how it spreads. There is no available vaccine or specific treatment recommended for the virus.
“In this interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS-CoV to make its way to the United States,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have been preparing since 2012 for this possibility.”
Federal, state, and local health officials are taking action to minimize the risk of spread of the virus. The Indiana hospital is using full precautions to avoid exposure within the hospital and among healthcare professionals and other people interacting with the patient, as recommended by CDC.
In July 2013, CDC posted checklists and resource lists for healthcare facilities and providers to assist with preparing to implement infection control precautions for MERS-CoV.
As part of the prevention and control measures, officials are reaching out to close contacts to provide guidance about monitoring their health.
While experts do not yet know exactly how this virus is spread, CDC advises Americans to help protect themselves from respiratory illnesses by washing hands often, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoid touching their eyes, nose and/or mouth with unwashed hands, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
The largest reported outbreak to date occurred April through May 2013 in eastern Saudi Arabia and involved 23 confirmed cases in four healthcare facilities. At this time, CDC does not recommend anyone change their travel plans. The World Health Organization also has not issued Travel Health Warnings for any country related to MERS-CoV. Anyone who develops fever and cough or shortness of breath within 14 day after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula should see their doctor and let them know where they travelled.
For more information about MERS Co-V, please visit:
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome:
Frequently Asked MERS Questions and Answers:
Indiana Department of Health
Is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) the Next SARS?
The carrier, a health care provider, flew from Riyadh to Chicago, by way of London, and then boarded a bus to Indiana. One of the initial challenges to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will be precisely tracing his journey and all individuals who may have been exposed to the virus. This is no simple task, but one that the CDC is somewhat familiar with. (You may recall that the CDC had to conduct the same surveillance for patients diagnosed with SARS several years ago.)
The virus, MERS-CoV, belongs to a family of coronaviruses (CoV) and causes a series of symptoms. It was originally reported in Saudi Arabia in April 2012. The CDC reports 401 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS, with 93 deaths. This virus’ high mortality rate—nearly 25 percent—and limited treatment options make it especially concerning to public health officials.
MERS patients tend to harbor preexisting health conditions and are much more likely to succumb to a MERS-CoV infection than a patient with SARS-CoV infection.
MERS conjures frightening memories of the 2003 SARS outbreak that originated in Hong Kong. There are similarities: Both are zoonotic viruses—meaning the virus acquired a mutation to jump from an animal host reservoir to a human host. The animal reservoir for SARS is bats, whereas the reservoir for MERS is primarily camels. Both are severe respiratory illnesses and the majority of symptoms revolve around progressive difficulty with breathing, oxygenation, and systemic infection.