CDC: First U.S. MERS Virus Case Entered Through Chicago

Health officials say a deadly virus from the Middle East has turned up for the first time in the U.S., with the infected person entering the country through Chicago.

An American who works as health care worker in Saudi Arabia is hospitalized at Community Hospital in Munster, Ind., with the MERS virus, short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

On April 24, the patient "traveled by plane from Saudi Arabia to London, then from London to Chicago,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NBC News reported.

"The patient then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. On the 27th, the patient began to experience signs of illness, including shortness of breath and coughing. The patient went to an emergency department on April 28. Because of the patient’s symptoms and travel history, Indiana public health officials had him tested for MERS," the CDC said.

According to a CDC Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, officials are working with the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Indiana Department of Public Health to track down anyone the infected person has had close contact with recently, including the plane and bus passengers.

"The CDC, IDPH and CDPH do not consider passengers on the flight or bus to be close contacts of the patient and therefore are not at high risk," Hasbrouk said in a news release.

Hospital officials could only confirm that the patient is in good condition.

Middle East respiratory syndrome — or MERS — first surfaced two years ago. Since then, at least 400 cases of the respiratory illness have been reported, and more than 100 people have died.

Saudi Arabia has been the center of the outbreak. All the victims have had ties to the Middle East or to someone who traveled there.

The virus has been found in camels, but officials don't know how it is spreading to humans.

The Illinois Poison Center has set up a MERS-CoV hotline at (844)565-0256 for residents and medical professionals who have concerns or questions.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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