Officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Friday confirmed the first case of an American infected with the emerging coronavirus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East.
The diagnosis of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was confirmed in man who was admitted to the Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana. The man fell ill with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath after flying to the U.S. late last week from Saudi Arabia where he was a health care worker.
Health officials report that the patient traveled by plane from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to London, England then from London to Chicago, Illinois on April 24, 2014. The patient then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. Several days later, the patient began to experience respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, coughing, and fever. He went to the emergency department on April 28th and was admitted on that same day. The patient is in isolation and 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 Friday afternoon.
The virus is not highly contagious and this case “represents a very low risk to the broader, general public,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general, U.S. Public Health Service, and director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a CDC briefing on Friday.
As a precaution, the hospital said it would monitor the man’s family and health care workers who treated him for any signs of infection.
In some countries, the virus has spread from person to person through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. However, there is currently no evidence of sustained spread of MERS-CoV in community settings.
Thus far there have been 401 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection in 12 countries. To date, all reported cases have originated in six countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Most of these people developed severe acute respiratory illness, with fever, cough, and shortness of breath; 93 people died.
“In this interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS-CoV to make its way to the United States,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have been preparing since 2012 for this possibility.”
Image courtesy of Rocky Mountain Labs/NIAID/NIH.