Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed that the deadly MERS virus from the Middle East has turned up for the first time in the United States.
MERS — or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome — first surfaced two years ago with an outbreak in Saudi Arabia. At least 400 cases were reported and more than 100 people have died. The virus has been found in camels, but officials don't know how it is spreading to humans. There is no specific treatment or immunization for MERS, and the virus appears to spread from person to person through close contact. Symptoms include a high fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
An American who works as a health care worker in Saudi Arabia is now hospitalized in Indiana with the virus. He was diagnosed with the disease after returning to the U.S. a week ago, and is reported to be isolated and in stable condition at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana. Officials say the man flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to London, England, and then on to Chicago, Illinois. He then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. Officials are now working to track down anyone he had close contact with recently so they can be notified and on the lookout for symptoms.
If you believe you've been exposed, call your doctor or reach out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for an immediate screening.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, says that health officials have been preparing for the possibility of the virus making its way to this country, and are taking swift action regarding this first confirmed case.
"We are doing everything possible with hospital, state and local health officials to find people who may have had contact with this person so that they can be appropriately evaluated," says Frieden.