The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed that a Illinois man is the third to test positive for the potentially deadly Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome virus. The two other confirmed cases of MERS occurred in Indiana and Florida.
The Illinois resident had close contact with an Indiana patient who became sick after traveling from Saudi Arabia to the U.S. in late April. The Indiana man was the first known case of MERS in the country. CDC officials said the two men met for two business meetings in Illinois before the original patient was found to be infected with MERS Co-V. The Illinois man tested positive for MERS, however, has no symptoms associated with the virus. CDC officials say it is possible that as the investigation continues, others may also test positive for MERS-CoV infection but not get sick
In a press release on May 2, CDC officials said the patient in Indiana flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Chicago's O'Hare Airport on April 24, after a stop in London and then traveled by bus to Highland, Indiana. The man didn't become sick until arriving in Indiana, and was admitted to Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana.
Illinois public health officials have closely monitored the man in Illinois since May 3, as part of the overall MERS investigation into those who came in contact with the Indiana patient.
On May 12, the CDC confirmed a second MERS case in a patient at a hospital in Orlando, Florida. The man in Florida was visiting relatives in the Orlando area from Saudi Arabia when he started feeling sick. Both U.S. patients, in Indiana and Florida are health care workers in Saudi Arabia where MERS originated, however, CDC officials said the two cases were not related.
Indiana and Florida health care officials said preliminary laboratory test results for hospital employees who came into contact with the MERS patients were negative. The MERS patient in Indiana made a full recovery and was released from Community Hospital in Munster, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
On the CDC's official website, a list of symptoms associated with MERS include fever, cough, breathing problems, which can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.
MERS originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and quickly spread to other Middle Eastern countries. The discovery of sporadic cases in Britain, Greece, France, Italy, Malaysia and other countries including the United States has raised concerns about the potential global spread of the disease by infected airline passengers.
In cooperation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the CDC has developed preparedness goals intended to measure state and local public health jurisdictions’ preparedness and response to bio-terrorism, outbreaks of infectious diseases, and other public health threats and emergencies. Previously, 163 suspected cases of MERS were tested in the U.S. but none confirmed.
The MERS virus has been found in camels, but healthcare officials and global researchers admit they are puzzled as to how MERS is spread to humans. It can spread from person to person, but officials believe that happens only after close contact. Not everyone that is exposed to the virus become ill.
According to CDC officials, more than 500 passengers on U.S. segments of the flights of the Indiana and Florida men with MERS were exposed and are being notified. Currently, there is no vaccine or antidote for MERS.