(AP) — The first American citizen diagnosed with a mysterious virus from
the Middle East is improving daily and could be released soon from an
Indiana hospital, although he will be isolated at home, health officials
The man has been
hospitalized at a Munster, Indiana hospital since April 28. Officials said
he fell ill with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, after flying
to Chicago last month from Saudi Arabia, where he is a health care worker
at a hospital in Riyadh.
The patient is an
American citizen, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention said Monday.
officials said the virus is not highly contagious, the hospital isolated
at home 50 employees identified as having come in contact with the man
before he was diagnosed, said Dr. Alan Kumar, chief medical information
officer at Community Hospital, where the man has been treated.
Also as a
precaution, members of the man's family have been told to stay home and
wear masks if they leave, Kumar said.
No health workers
or family members who've had contact with the patient have tested positive
for the virus, which has an incubation period of two to 14 days and
appears in most cases within five days, said Indiana State Department of
Health Commissioner William VanNess II.
VanNess II said
discovery of the MERS case in Indiana was "a scary situation."
"There are a lot
of unknowns as you'll find out about this particular virus," he said. "As
a physician, the father of five sons and grandfather to six, I understand
the concerns and worries."
Since MERS was
discovered 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 region or to people who traveled there.
The MERS patient
in Indiana flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to the United States on April
24, with a stop in London. He landed at Chicago's O'Hare International
Airport and took a bus to Indiana, health officials said. He went to the
emergency room last Monday with a fever, cough and shortness of breath.
"He no longer has
any oxygen requirements. He's in good spirits. He's eating well and we
have started the discharge planning process at this time," Kumar said.
understands he will need to remain isolated when he leaves the hospital,
Kumar said. The man does not recall working directly with a MERS patient
in Riyadh but said the hospital where he worked did have some MERS cases,
Federal and state
officials are still trying to contact about 100 people who may have been
on the airplane or bus with the patient. About three-quarters of the
people on the plane had been contacted, said Dr. Daniel Feikin, an
epidemiologist with the CDC. State health department spokeswoman Amy Reel
said the state was using credit card receipts to try to reach passengers
who were on the bus from O'Hare to Highland, Indiana. The CDC said 10 bus
passengers had been tested.
After the patient
was determined to be at-risk for MERS, he was isolated in a room that has
a contained air system, Kumar said. The hospital was able to identify
employees who came in contact with him by reviewing video surveillance and
checking radio trackers on employee identification badges that monitor
where employees have been, Kumar said.
who now come in contact with him wear gloves, a gown, mask and eye
protection, Kumar said.
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.
There is no known cure.
Feikin said there
are no known cases of the virus spreading through casual contact, but it
was not surprising MERS had reached the United States.
"We know that
infectious diseases do not respect international boundaries. In this day
and age of global travel and trade, infectious diseases can spread almost
anywhere," he said.
Saudi Arabia has
been at the center of a Middle East outbreak of MERS, and the virus has
spread among health care workers, most notably at four facilities in that
county last spring.
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