US patient with MERS is improving: health officials

May 5, 2014 by Kerry Sheridan

The first US patient sickened by the dangerous Middle East respiratory virus, MERS, is doing better and no other cases have emerged, American health officials said Monday.

The patient, a male healthcare worker who came down with the illness while working in Saudi Arabia, is still hospitalized and in isolation but is improving, officials told reporters.

"We expect him to be going home soon," said Alan Kumar, chief medical information officer at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana.

MERS, short for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, is a concern to authorities because even though it is harder to transmit than the flu, it is often deadly.

It first emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and has since infected hundreds of people in 12 countries.

Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. About 30 percent of cases have been fatal, particularly among elderly people and those with pre-existing health problems.

The Indiana patient is believed to have acquired MERS while working in a healthcare setting in Riyadh, where other patients with MERS were present, though he was not working specifically with them, officials said.

He then traveled by plane to London and Chicago, where he boarded a public bus toward Indiana. On April 28, he went to the emergency room and tests confirmed he had MERS on May 2.

Travelers contacted

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obtained the manifest of travelers on the plane, which included about 100 people. About 10 passengers were on the bus, said Daniel Feikin, the lead medical epidemiologist from the CDC.

"So far almost three-quarters of the travelers have been contacted and to date none of them have been symptomatic," he said.

In addition about 50 healthcare workers who came near the patient before it was known that he had MERS have tested negative for the virus.

Since symptoms can take up to 14 days to occur, experts are being "very vigilant" and repeat tests will be done to confirm that they have not been infected in the coming days, Feikin said.

In the meantime, family members of the man—whose identity and age were not released—and staff members at the hospital who had direct contact with him have been placed in temporary home isolation.

There is no vaccine to prevent MERS and no cure for the lung infection it causes. Some research has suggested it may be crossing from camels into humans.

Last week, Egypt recorded its first infection, after a person who had arrived from Saudi Arabia tested positive.

Meanwhile, Saudi health authorities said Monday that 115 people have died from the MERS coronavirus in the two years since the respiratory disease first appeared in the kingdom.

The country's number of MERS infections has meanwhile risen to 414, the world's highest tally, the ministry reported.

The World Health Organization is working to confirm more cases, but as of Monday the official global tally was 401 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection, with 93 deaths, according to the CDC.

MERS is not as contagious as SARS, the that emerged in 2003 and infected thousands of people across Asia.

Rather, MERS is transmitted by close contact among people in the same household or in a healthcare setting, officials said.

The CDC urges people who develop fever and cough within two weeks of traveling to Saudi Arabia to report to their doctor for testing.

Otherwise, people can reduce their risk of infection by washing hands often, covering their nose and mouth when sneezing, avoid sharing of cups or utensils with sick people and disinfecting toys and doorknobs.

Explore further: Saudi MERS death toll reaches 115

Related Stories

Saudi MERS death toll reaches 115

May 5, 2014
Saudi health authorities announced on Monday that the death toll from the MERS coronavirus has reached 115 since the respiratory disease first appeared in the kingdom in 2012.

First US MERS patient improving, officials say

May 4, 2014
(HealthDay)—A man hospitalized in Indiana with the first U.S. case of a deadly respiratory virus that initially surfaced in the Middle East two years ago is improving, state health officials reported Saturday.

MERS death toll in Saudi reaches 111 (Update)

May 3, 2014
Saudi health authorities announced Saturday two new deaths from the MERS coronavirus, raising to 111 the number of fatalities since the disease appeared in the kingdom in September 2012.

First US MERS patient could leave hospital soon (Update)

May 5, 2014
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 a hospital, though he could continue to be isolated at home.

Deadly Middle East MERS respiratory virus strikes in US (Update)

May 2, 2014
The first case of MERS, a dangerous respiratory virus that originated in the Middle East and has a high death rate, has been confirmed in the United States, officials said Friday.

Jordan records two new MERS infections

May 1, 2014
Two new infections from MERS coronavirus have been detected in Jordan, the health ministry said Thursday, one a Saudi man and the other a Jordanian medic who was treating him.

Recommended for you

Zika virus stifles pregnant women's weakened immune system to harm baby, study finds

August 21, 2017
The Zika virus, linked to congenital birth defects and miscarriages, suppresses a pregnant woman's immune system, enabling the virus to spread and increasing the chances an unborn baby will be harmed, a Keck School of Medicine ...

Novel approach to track HIV infection

August 18, 2017
Northwestern Medicine scientists have developed a novel method of tracking HIV infection, allowing the behavior of individual virions—infectious particles—to be connected to infectivity.

Faulty gene linked to obesity in adults

August 18, 2017
Groundbreaking new research linking obesity and metabolic dysfunction to a problem in the energy generators in cells has been published by researchers from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University ...

Two lung diseases killed 3.6 million in 2015: study

August 17, 2017
The two most common chronic lung diseases claimed 3.6 million lives worldwide in 2015, according to a tally published Thursday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

New test differentiates between Lyme disease, similar illness

August 16, 2017
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. But it can be confused with similar conditions, including Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. A team of researchers led by Colorado ...

Addressing superbug resistance with phage therapy

August 16, 2017
International research involving a Monash biologist shows that bacteriophage therapy – a process whereby bacterial viruses attack and destroy specific strains of bacteria - can be used successfully to treat systemic, multidrug ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.