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O'Hare Airport passengers may have been exposed to MERS virus

The MERS virus has been confirmed in Indiana, the first case in the United States
The MERS virus has been confirmed in Indiana, the first case in the United States
Courtesy of Mother Nature Network

The U.S. Center for Disease Control confirmed on Friday that a man who traveled from Saudi Arabia to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport about a week ago has been diagnosed with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a deadly respiratory virus in Highland, Indiana. There is no vaccine or cure for MERS.

The Associated Press reports that an unidentified man was hospitalized and diagnosed with MERS after arriving in the U.S. about a week ago from Saudi Arabia where he is a health care worker.

In a press release on Friday afternoon, the CDC said on April 24, the patient flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Chicago's O'Hare Airport, after a stop in London and then traveled by bus to Highland, Indiana. The man didn't become sick until arriving in Indiana. The CDC advisory further states:

"On the[April] 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."

On the CDC's official website, a list of symptoms of MERS include fever, cough, breathing problems, which can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

MERS originated in Saudi Arabia and spread to other Middle Eastern countries. However, the discovery of sporadic cases in Britain, Greece, France, Italy, Malaysia and other countries have 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 nine 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 it 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.