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Potential U.S. MERS Exposures Cleared

May 07, 2014 01:35 PM EDT
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The US man who was verified as infected with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is reportedly making a quick recovery. Additionally, family, and hospital staff who were exposed to the potentially deadly MERS virus when making contact with the man last week have been cleared to return to work after laboratory test results came back negative for infection.

Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana released a statement Tuesday explaining that the US citizen, who was first confirmed as a MERS patient Friday, has made a swift recovery from the potentially deadly viral infection, and is expected to be released to his home later this week. He will remain in home isolation until he is not longer recognized as an infection risk to the public by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH).

According to a statement and televised announcement made by the Indiana Department of Health early Sunday morning, the unidentified male was the first confirmed case of MERS in North America. According to ISDH statements, this man had been working as a health professional in a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he could have made contact with MERS patients.

Late last April, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed its concern that the escalating MERS situation in Saudi Arabia -- which has reportedly killed more than 100 people in a series of outbreaks -- could prove a global threat through international travel.

Last Friday, the ISDH and CDC confirmed a man returning to the US was hospitalized at Community Hospital and isolated soon after his arrival. Family and hospital workers who had made contact with the patient were immediately isolated as well, as it was suspected that the man was suffering from a potential infectious respiratory infection. Soon later, it was confirmed that the man was suffering from MERS -- a viral infection of the lungs that has primarily been isolated to the Arab Peninsula.

As of Tuesday, Community Hospital and the ISDH have found no new cases of MERS. According to the CDC, the respiratory infection may take up to 14 days to present itself after initial infection. The infection causes fever and shortness of breath, and the WHO reportedly does not currently know how the infection spreads. There is no known vaccine or cure for the virus, but experts have speculated that the disease may have been circulating among camels for decades before it began to make itself known.

The MERS update from Community Hospital was published on May 6.

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