First MERS Case Reported in the US

MERS virus infection in US discovered in Indiana patient who traveled from Middle East

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The MERS virus has been under the close watch of health officials around the globe since it first started causing infections in 2012. This week, the first US patient was discovered.

Cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have mostly centered around Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries. Much is still to be learned, but some evidence of limited person-to-person transmission in close settings has been seen.

US health officials are investigating the US case and stressed that the risk to the wider public is low. 

"Limit close contact with people when you are sick."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the patient was confirmed on May 2 with fever and respiratory symptoms (shortness of breath and coughing) after being admitted to an Indiana hospital on April 28.

On April 24, the patient flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Chicago via London. He then arrived in Indiana after taking a bus from Chicago.

CDC reported that the patient is currently isolated and in stable condition. Contacts with the patient are being identified and advised by officials.

In a press conference, Anne Schuchat, MD, Director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that the patient is a health care provider who was providing health care during his stay in Saudi Arabia.

"The first US importation represents a very low risk to the broader general public," said Dr. Schuchat.

"[I]n some countries, there has been limited spread of the virus from person to person through close contact such as caring for or living with an infected person," said Dr. Schuchat. "However, the virus has not shown the ability to spread easily from person to person in community setting."

Since the virus was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012, a total of 401 cases have been identified in 12 countries — 93 of which have resulted in death. CDC noted that all of the reported cases originated in the Arabian Peninsula.  

"While experts do not yet know exactly how this virus is spread, CDC advises Americans to help protect themselves from respiratory illnesses by washing hands often, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoid touching their eyes, nose and/or mouth with unwashed hands, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces," suggested CDC.

CDC has not recommended any travel restrictions, but did recommend that anyone who develops symptoms like fever, cough, or trouble breathing within two weeks of traveling to or near the Arabian Peninsula seek medical care and inform their doctor of their travel history.

“We’ve anticipated MERS reaching the US, and we’ve prepared for and are taking swift action,” said Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of CDC, in a press release. “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.”

Review Date: 
May 3, 2014
Last Updated:
May 5, 2014