The CDC reports the first confirmed case of MERS has been diagnosed in the US after a healthcare worker flew to Chicago from Riyadh Saudi Arabia last week. Saudi Arabia has been at the center of a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome epidemic, where it has already killed 100 out of 400 patients in the past two years, including healthcare workers at 4 facilities there last spring. most notably at four facilities in that county last spring. The disease has also been detected in several other Middle Eastern nations, including Egypt and Tunisia.
"Given the interconnectedness of our world, there's no such thing as 'it stays over there and it can't come here,'" said MERS expert Dr. W. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University.
The unidentified man is reportedly in good condition at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana. In the meantime, federal officials are trying to track down anyone he may have come in contact with during his flight to the US. It is presently unclear how many people he may have exposed to the virus.
MERS, which belongs to the same coronavirus family as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) has been traced back to camels in the Mideast, but it is unknown how it jumped to humans, who are now spreading it among themselves, primarily through close contact with mucous discharges. While not everyone exposed becomes sick, the new strain seems to be exceptionally virulent. As a result, the CDC is warning anyone who develops fever, cough or shortness of breath within 14 days after traveling to (or near) the Arabian Peninsula to be tested for the disease.