First Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus case in the United States

MERS-CoV, a virus new to humans, was first reported in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012.
By Alex Cukan  |  May 2, 2014 at 5:30 PM
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ATLANTA, May 2 (UPI) -- A healthcare provider who had been in Saudi Arabia and traveled to Indiana is the first confirmed case of MERS-CoV in the United States, federal health officials confirmed Friday.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general, U.S. Public Health Service; director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases; said the American healthcare provider took a plane April 24 from Riyadh to London, then to Chicago and then took a bus to Indiana.

"CDC and the Indiana State Department of Heath are conducting a joint investigation of the first case of MERS-CoV in the United States, Schuchat told reporters during a telephone news conference.

"MERS-CoV, a virus new to humans, was first reported in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012. We don't know how this virus is spread, but this time the CDC does not advise changing travel plans at this time, but the situation is very fluid, therefore guidance and recommendations may change."

Schuchat said the male patient is in stable condition and receiving excellent care in an Indiana hospital. He is isolated from other patients, is receiving oxygen, but is not on a ventilator. His identity has not been made public. There are no specific treatments recommended for MERS-CoV.

It usually takes about five days for patients to exhibit symptoms but it can as long as 14 days for symptoms to appear, Schuchat said.

"In other countries, the virus spread person-to-person with close contact, such as family members or healthcare workers who cared for an infected person," Schuchat said.

"The CDC has expected MERS to appear in the United States and has been preparing for this. The introduction of MERS-CoV is another reminder that disease is just a plane ride away."

The CDC has:

-- Developed molecular diagnostics that will allow scientists to accurately identify MERS cases. These lab tests will help scientists tell whether a person is, or has been, infected with MERS-CoV.

-- Evaluated genetic sequences as they are available, which will help scientists further describe the characteristics of MERS-CoV.

-- As part of routine U.S. public health preparedness, the CDC provided MERS-CoV testing kits to state health departments so they can test for patients under investigation for MERS-CoV infection.

-- Developed Interim Guidance for Health Professionals, which includes case definitions, and guidance for evaluating patients, reporting cases to CDC, infection control in healthcare settings, preparedness, caring for MERS patients at home and handling clinical specimens.

The CDC said it is closely monitoring the situation globally and is working with the World Health Organization and other health agencies to better understand the virus, how it spreads, the source and risks to the public’s health.

MERS-CoV has been linked to camels. Dr. Chantal Reusken in the Netherlands analyzed the blood serum samples of a variety of livestock animals, including dromedary camels, cows, sheep and goats for the presence of antibodies specific to MERS-CoV, as well as antibodies reactive to SARS coronavirus, which is related to the virus.

The study, published in The Lancet last year, found antibodies specific to MERS-CoV were found in all 50 serum samples taken from dromedary camels in the country of Oman on the Arabian peninsula. The Oman samples originated from a number of different locations in the country, suggesting that MERS-CoV, or a very similar virus, was circulating widely in dromedary camels in the region.

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