First Case Of Deadly Middle East Virus Emerges In U.S.

The first confirmed case of a deadly virus from the Middle East has surfaced in the United States, brought here from Saudi Arabia by an unnamed health-care provider who is hospitalized in Indiana for treatment of the respiratory ailment, health officials reported Friday.

The unnamed person, who had been providing health care in a Riyadh facility and probably picked up the virus there, is in stable condition but requires oxygen to help with the symptoms of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a virulent and relatively new condition first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The person traveled from Riyadh to London on April 24 and then on to Chicago, said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. The victim, identified as a male by a person with knowledge of the situation, then took a bus to a location in Indiana that authorities declined to disclose. Symptoms that included shortness of breath, coughing and fever began to appear on April 27, and he went to the emergency room on April 28 and was admitted the same day. The patient has been isolated in the hospital.

Schuchat said that health officials, working with the World Health Organization, have begun a widespread investigation that includes checking on people who might have come in contact with the patient on airplanes, in London and on the bus. She stressed that MERS does not appear to be easily transmittable and that it “represents a very low risk to the broader general public.”

But authorities have been concerned about MERS since it surfaced two years ago because it is fatal to a large proportion of the people who contract it. The virus has been confirmed in 262 people in 12 Arabian Peninsula countries, and 93 of them have died. People with illnesses that compromise their immunity, including lung and kidney diseases, and diabetes, are more susceptible to this virus. It comes from the same family as the virus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which killed 774 people worldwide in 2003.

Schuchat said it takes about five days after someone becomes infected for symptoms to appear. Authorities “don’t know exactly how the virus speads,” she said, and noted that health officials are not recommending that anyone change their travel plans.


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