NEW YORK (AP) - Health officials reported Saturday what appears to be the
first time that a mysterious Middle East virus has spread from one person to
another in the United States.
The Illinois man probably picked up an infection from an Indiana man who
earlier this month became the first U.S. case of Middle East respiratory
syndrome, or MERS. The Illinois man, however, never needed medical treatment
and is reported to be feeling well, officials at the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention said.
The two men met twice before the Indiana man fell ill and was hospitalized
in Munster, Indiana, shortly after traveling from Saudi Arabia, where he
lived and was employed as a health care worker. Health officials say they
think the virus spread during a 40-minute business meeting that involved no
more contact than a handshake.
ďWe donít think this changes the risk to the general public,Ē which remains
low, said Dr. David Swerdlow of the CDC.
The new report also is not considered evidence that the virus is spreading
more easily among people than previously thought, he said. The virus is not
considered to be highly contagious, and health officials believe it only
spreads from person to person with close contact. Many of those who have
gotten sick in the Middle East have been family members or health care
workers caring for a MERS patient.
The CDC said tests completed Friday provided evidence that the Illinois man
had an infection at some point. Since the first manís diagnosis, health
officials have been monitoring and testing anyone who was in close contact
with him, including health care workers and household members, but none of
the rest of them has tested positive for the virus.
A second U.S. illness was confirmed last week in a 44-year-old man from
Saudi Arabia who was visiting Florida.
Saudi Arabia has been at the center of an outbreak of MERS that began two
years ago. The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials donít know
how it is spreading to humans. Overall, about 600 people have had the
respiratory illness, and about 175 people have died. All had ties to the
Middle East region or to people who traveled there. There is no vaccine or
cure and thereís no specific treatment except to relieve symptoms, which
include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Not all those exposed to the
virus become ill.
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.