NEW YORK (AP) —
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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