ALBANY, N.Y. – The first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has been diagnosed in the United States, but health officials believe they have the case contained.
A health care worker who was travelling abroad walked into an emergency room in Munster, Indiana with shortness of breath, a cough and fever. He was admitted and immediately isolated.
The doctors and nurses who cared for him have not shown any signs of the illness.
Officials are concerned because the man flew from London to Chicago and took a bus to Indiana. They are currently attempting to locate the people he made contact with to ensure they have not contracted MERS.
“Because MERS is a relatively new virus, and we’re still learning much about it, we’re being very vigilant to follow these contacts out to 14 days of their last exposure and continue to do testing on them,” Dr. Daniel Feikin with the Centers for Disease Control said.
The hospital is also observing anyone who was in the E.R. during the time the patient was there. So far, no one else is showing symptoms of MERS.
The symptoms include congestion, cough, fever, shortness of breath, body aches and diarrhea. Dr. Feikin said being in close proximity to someone who is infected does not readily mean the virus will spread.
“What we can tell you about this virus, it mostly comes from the Arabian Peninsula which is where its home is, and we know it can spread person-to-person; however, this happens almost exclusively among very close contact either in the home or in the healthcare setting,” he explained. “There is no evidence to date for sustained transmission of this virus in the community.”
About 30 percent of those who contract MERS die from the virus, but the victims were either elderly or had an underlying medical condition in most cases.
Doctors said the patient in Indiana is responding well to treatment and improving.