NEW YORK (AP/WTHI) — 4:15 PM UPDATE: Health officials on Friday confirmed the first case of an American infected with a mysterious Middle East virus. The man fell ill after arriving in the U.S. about a week ago from Saudi Arabia where he is a health care worker.
The man is hospitalized in Northwestern Indiana with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is investigating the case along with Indiana health officials.
“I want to assure every Hoosier that we have deployed the full resources of the Indiana State Department of Health to engage in tracking this case, assessing the risk to the public, and working to prevent the spread of this virus,” said Governor Pence. “We are working in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and encourage those who may have been exposed to this virus to report any symptoms to their medical provider and take all necessary precautions. Further, I commend Community Hospital in Munster, their staff and physicians for their swift professionalism in diagnosing and addressing this case.”
The patient is being well cared for, is isolated and is in stable condition. Because of the patient’s symptoms and travel history, physicians at the hospital decided a MERS-CoV test was appropriate.
Community Hospital in Munster has contacted all high-risk individuals. In an abundance of caution, individuals who visited the Emergency Department (ED) of Community Hospital in Munster between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on April 28, 2014 should watch for signs and symptoms. If you visited the ED during this time and begin experiencing symptoms, please call your healthcare provider and let them know about your possible exposure to MERS-CoV.
The symptoms of MERS-CoV are similar to the symptoms of influenza, and include:
· Fever over 100.4
· Shortness of breath
· Body aches
Although the MERS-CoV infection is not easily spread from person-to-person, close contacts of people with MERS-CoV can develop infections.
“We are doing everything in our power to work with the hospital, federal and other state partners, as well as the local health department to track and contain this disease in Indiana,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D.
If you do not have any of the symptoms, you can continue with your daily activities, such as going to work, school, or other public areas.
To help prevent the spread of MERS-CoV to other people, CDC advises that people follow these tips:
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
· Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people.
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.
The Indiana State Department of Health has established a hotline for Hoosiers to call with questions. The hotline will be open seven days a week until further notice from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The number is 1-877-826-0011.
Saudi Arabia has been the center of an outbreak of MERS that began about two years ago. At least 400 people have had the respiratory illness, and more than 100 people have died. All had ties to the Middle East or to people who traveled there. Infections have been previously reported among health care workers.
MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003.
The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials don’t know how it is spreading to humans. It can spread from person to person, but officials believe that happens only after close contact. Not all those exposed to the virus become ill.
But it appears to be unusually lethal — by some estimates, it has killed nearly a third of the people it sickened. That’s a far higher percentage than seasonal flu or other routine infections. But it is not as contagious as flu, measles or other diseases. There is no vaccine or cure for MERS.
The CDC on Friday released only limited information about the U.S. case: The man flew to the United States about a week ago, with a stop in London. He landed in Chicago and took a bus to the neighboring state of Indiana. He didn’t become sick until arriving in Indiana, the CDC said. Symptoms include fever, cough, breathing problems, which can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.
CDC officials say they are sending a team to investigate the man’s illness, his travel history and to track down people he may have been in close contact with.
Saudi Arabia health officials have recently reported a surge in MERS illnesses; cases have tended to increase in the spring. Experts think the uptick may party be due to more and better surveillance. Researchers at Columbia University have an additional theory — there may be more virus circulating in the spring, when camels are born.
U.S. health officials have been bracing for the arrival of one or more cases, likely among travelers. Isolated cases of MERS have been carried outside the Middle East. Previously, 163 suspected cases were tested in the U.S. but none confirmed.