First Case of MERS Virus Found in American Man Who Visited in Saudi Arabia

The MERS coronavirus was first reported in spring 2012.
The MERS coronavirus was first reported in spring 2012.

A virus that has killed more than 100 people in the Middle East has been found in the United States for the first time, in an Indiana health care worker who recently returned from Saudi Arabia, federal health officials said on Friday.

The man, whose name, age and exact occupation have not been released, is in stable condition in an Indiana hospital, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of respiratory diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is in isolation and receiving oxygen.

A single American case of the virus — called MERS, for Middle East respiratory syndrome — is “a very low risk,” Dr. Schuchat said. The C.D.C. is not recommending that anyone change travel plans to the Middle East.

But a team from the agency will travel to Indiana to assist in treatment and to retrace the patient’s contacts. He flew to Chicago from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, via London on April 24, then took a bus to Indiana. He fell ill on April 27 and was hospitalized the next day.

The typical incubation period for MERS is five days, and the patient is not known to have infected anyone else. Airline passenger lists will be used to contact everyone who sat near him.

But because bus companies often do not know who bought tickets or who sat where, “that bus ride may be a challenge,” said Tom Skinner, a C.D.C. spokesman.

MERS is a coronavirus similar to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed hundreds of people, mainly in China, in 2002 and 2003.

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The New York Times

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