Deadly MERS Virus Spreads To The US

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention announced today that the first case of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome has been confirmed in the United States, in what officials are calling “a rapidly evolving situation.”

CDC officials are investigating with health officials in Indiana.

On a phone call with press, the CDC said the infected person was providing healthcare in Saudi Arabia before travelling to Indiana via Riyadh, London, and Chicago. He or she went to the emergency room on April 28 with shortness of breath, coughing, and fever, and is currently on oxygen in an Indiana hospital but in stable condition.

“We do not yet know how the patient became infected or how many people had close contact with the patient,” Anne Schuchat, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said on the call.

The patient is currently isolated, and there are no other suspected cases. The CDC is working with local public health officials to provide guidance to the patient’s close contacts, who may be at risk.

“We want to take this very seriously and not assume that it’s a minor issue,” said Schuchat. “But this represents a very low risk to the broader general public.”

The spread of MERS has, in general, been limited to people who have very close contact with infected patients, such as caretakers and healthcare workers.

The hub of the MERS outbreak is in Saudi Arabia, where there have been hundreds of cases since the virus first emerged in 2012. The virus that causes MERS is related to SARS but less contagious. Symptoms begin as a cold but can escalate to pneumonia, organ failure, and death.

This post is being updated as the story develops.

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