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.
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