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CDC retracts MERS diagnosis in Illinois case

The Centers for Disease Control, on May 28, reversed a previous diagnosis from May 17 that MERS had been transmitted from a patient in Indiana to a business associate in Illinois. While initial blood tests suggested that the Illinois man had antibodies for the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS Co-V), a more definitive test has proved the original findings to be false. There have been just two MERS cases in the U.S. and none of the contacts for those patients have been found to have been infected.

TSA warning posted in many airports warning of the risk of MERS on the Arabian peninsula.
TSA warning posted in many airports warning of the risk of MERS on the Arabian peninsula.CDC / public domain

The lab work involved is called the "neutralizing antibody test." The CDC states that this test takes five days to produce results. The original tests, ELISA and IFA serology, are much faster but have a greater potential for error.

MERS in the United States remains confined to two imported cases. Patient one, diagnosed in Indiana, has recovered and returned home. Patient two, discovered in Florida, reported May 12, is not linked to the first case. Both patients were health care workers at facilities in Saudi Arabia.

The latest MERS case data from the World Heath Organization was also released on May 28. They have received reports of 636 laboratory confirmed cases of MERS, and 193 related deaths.

The disease was first identified in 2012 and the vast majority of illnesses and deaths have been in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Ministry of Health provides a daily total for the nation. As of May 28, they have recorded 565 MERS cases with 186 deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control continue to maintain that MERS Co-V infections present little or no risk to U.S. residents at this time. There is no evidence that the illness is spread through casual contact in community settings. Person to person transmission of the virus has been documents in close contact situations such as patients and health care workers, or in family settings.