The first confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was reported in a traveler to the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Friday, May 2, 2014. This deadly virus is relatively new to humans and was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. There is no known vaccine or specific treatment.
The patient is a healthcare worker who returned to the U.S. from Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. On April 24, the patient traveled by plane from Riyadh to London, England then from London to Chicago, Illinois. He then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. The first respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, coughing, and fever were experienced on April 27th. He was hospitalized the next day, according to the CDC.
So far, this is the only confirmed case in the United States.
According to the press release: "CDC is working very quickly to investigate this first U.S. case of MERS and respond to minimize the spread of this virus. We expect to learn much more in the coming hours and days. We will share updated information through the CDC MERS website."
“We’ve anticipated MERS reaching the US, and we’ve prepared for and are taking swift action,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “We’re doing everything possible with hospital, local, and state health officials to find people who may have had contact with this person so they can be evaluated as appropriate. This case reminds us that we are all connected by the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. We can break the chain of transmission in this case through focused efforts here and abroad.”
CDC and Indiana health officials are not yet sure how the patient became infected with the virus. Exposure may have occurred in Saudi Arabia, where outbreaks of MERS-CoV infection are occurring. Officials also do not know exactly how many people have had close contact with the patient.
So far, including this U.S. importation, there have been 401 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection in 12 countries. To date, all reported cases have originated in six countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Most of these people developed severe acute respiratory illness, with fever, cough, and shortness of breath; 93 people died. Officials do not know where the virus came from or exactly how it spreads. There is no available vaccine or specific treatment recommended for the virus.
At this time the CDC does not recommend that anyone change their travel plans because of MERS. Thir current travel notice is an Alert (Level 2), which provides special precautions for travelers.
This virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact. However, it has not shown to spread in a sustained way in communities.
The situation is still evolving.
Featured image: Google 2014 and MERS Corona Map as of May 3, 2014.
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