Deadly coronavirus (MERS) makes first U.S. appearance, in Indiana

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The first U.S. case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus has been reported in Indiana, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The patient is a health-care provider who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia to provide health care, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general with the U.S. Public Health Service and director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The person, an American male, traveled on April 24 from Riyadh to London, then to Chicago, and took a bus to Indiana, officials said.

The patient is in an Indiana hospital, has been isolated and is in stable condition, she said. He was receiving oxygen support, but was not on a ventilator.

The virus poses a “very low risk to the broader general public,” Schuchat said, as it has not been shown to spread easily from person to person.

The CDC and the Indiana State Department of Health are conducting a joint investigation into the case, according to a CDC statement. The CDC confirmed Indiana test results on Friday.

The coronavirus, known as MERS-CoV, was first reported in the Middle East — specifically, the Arabian Peninsula — in 2012.

Laboratory testing has confirmed 262 cases of the coronavirus in 12 countries, including the Indiana case, Schuchat said. Ninety-three people have died.

So far, all MERS cases have been linked to six countries on or near the Arabian Peninsula, Schuchat said.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has reported 339 cases, and said nearly a third of those have died. Not all of the Saudi cases have been confirmed by the World Health Organization.

Late last month, Saudi officials noted a spike in new cases.

The CDC has expected MERS to come to the United States, Schuchat said. “We have been preparing for this.”

However, “The introduction of MERS-CoV is another reminder that diseases are just a plane ride away,” she said.

MERS-CoV comes from the same group of viruses as the common cold and attacks the respiratory system, according to the CDC. Symptoms, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

No one knows exactly how this virus originated, but evidence is emerging implicating camels. In a recently published study in mBio, researchers said they isolated live MERS virus from two single-humped camels, known as dromedaries. They found multiple substrains in the camel viruses, including one that perfectly matches a substrain isolated from a human patient.

The same group of researchers reported in February that nearly three-quarters of camels in Saudi Arabia tested positive for past exposure to the MERS coronavirus.

Although many of the cases have occurred on the Arabian Peninsula, people have died of the infection elsewhere, including in European countries and Tunisia in North Africa. Egypt reported its first case on April 26, according to the WHO.

Limited human-to-human transmission of the disease has also occurred in other countries — meaning some people who traveled to the Middle East gave the virus to others.

Officials are not aware of any other confirmed U.S. cases, Schuchat said, adding it’s too early to assume no one else is ill. An active investigation is underway.

By Elizabeth Landau

CNN’s Miriam Falco, Caleb Hellerman and Ashley Hayes contributed to this report.

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


  • Angel Sue Lankford

    Just curious as to how many others this 1 man has came in contact with? And those people who were in contact with this man now is in contact with other people not knowing they had been in contact with this virus? Roughly one-third of the people known to have contracted the MERS virus have died from it, according to data from the World Health Organization. Most of the fatal cases have involved the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions. It Can Look Like the Flu
    Symptoms of the MERS virus include fever and cough, which are also symptoms of the flu. MERS can also cause diarrhea and shortness of breath, and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure. It Might Have Come From Camels, Bats or Both
    While the source of MERS remains a mystery, scientists suspect that it came from an animal. Camels and bats in Saudi Arabia have tested positive for the virus, according to the CDC. There’s No Cure
    There’s no treatment for MERS. People who get sick are given supportive treatment to address the infection’s various symptoms, according to the CDC. There’s no vaccine, either.

  • Megan Clinkenbeard

    So why have we not stopped people from traveling if the cdc was expecting this? It’s highly contagious. And has killed nearly half the people who have caught it?!? This is outrageous. How many people did that one man come in contact with before he was quarantined? Complete bull.

  • martha

    Not to minimize the seriousness of this illness, but the article says that “it has not been shown to spread easily from person to person”. So where are you gettiing the information that it is ” highly contagious”? This is how misinformation leads to panic.

    • Angel Sue Lankford

      @ martha, This is a highly contagious” virus and like all virus are highly contagious.Did you ever noticed you can hear the flu virus is in 1 state but yet a week later you are sicker then a dog? Virus travels fast airborne and people to people contact.Do a research on the internet on the internet on (MERS) coronavirus and see for yourself.I think this is trying to warn people not trying to cause a panic.This virus is here is the US and we just don’t know how many people this man has been around to infect and those people not knowing they been around this virus gets around other people who then those people also get around other people if you get what I’m trying to say here.There could or may have been many contagious people by now.

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