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First MERS case arrives in United States

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An Indiana man is being treated in a Munster, IN, hospital tonight for a respiratory illness caused by MERS-CoV, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Indiana State Department of Health held a May 2 press conference announcing this first case of its kind in the United States. The MERS virus is responsible for hundreds of illnesses and over 100 deaths since it first appeared on the Arabian peninsula.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the patient is a male health care worker who returned from Saudi Arabia on April 24. In the press conference, the CDC said that the patient traveled from Riyadh to London to Chicago by air. He then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana.

The patient began to experience respiratory symptoms on April 27 and went to the emergency department of Munster Community Hospital on April 28. The hospital, in a statement released May 2, stated that the patient is in good condition and in isolation. His family and hospital staff with patient contact will be monitored during the illness's 14 day incubation period for any signs of infection.

The number of MERS cases to date is unclear. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the center of the outbreak, and the illness spread rapidly in April. The World Health Organization, on May 1, noted that they had just received data on "138 cases identified between 11 to 26 April 2014 in the country, including preliminary details of cases and deaths associated with the outbreak in Jeddah."

The CDC describes MERS and MERS-CoV:

Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About 30% of these people died. So far, all the cases have been linked to six countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula.

The CDC makes it clear that the illness is not known to spread through casual contact. The airline and bus passengers from the routes this patient traveled are at little risk of illness. The disease is being spread from human to human through close contact such as between family members or with health care workers.

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