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MERS case in Indiana isolated to one patient

Associated Press
May 5, 2014
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Health officials said Monday they expect the first patient in the United States diagnosed with a mysterious virus from the Middle East to be released soon from an Indiana hospital, though he could continue to be isolated at home.

The man has been hospitalized at a Munster hospital since April 28. Officials said he fell ill with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, after flying to the U.S. last month from Saudi Arabia, where he is a health care worker.

Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner William VanNess II said during a news conference with officials from the hospital and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday that no health workers or family members who've had contact with the patient have tested positive for the virus. The virus has an incubation period of two to 14 days.

About 50 hospital employees had contact with the patient before he was placed in isolation, said Alan Kumar, chief medical information officer at Community Hospital.

The man flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to the United States on April 24, with a stop in London. He landed in Chicago and took a bus to Indiana, health officials said.

MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003.

Saudi Arabia has been at the center of a Middle East outbreak of MERS that began two years ago. The virus has spread among health care workers, most notably at four facilities in that county last spring.

Officials said Monday the patient did not recall working directly with a MERS patient in Riyadh but said the hospital where he worked did have some MERS cases.

Overall, at least 400 people have had the respiratory illness, and more than 100 people have died. All had ties to the Middle East region or to people who traveled there.

Officials say it isn't highly contagious, but there is no cure.

The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials don't know how it is spreading to humans. It can spread from person to person, but officials believe that happens only after close contact. Not all those exposed to the virus become ill.

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