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CDC Confirms First U.S Case of MERS Coronavirus in Indiana Patient

May 03, 2014 05:53 AM EDT

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Saturday that MERS coronavirus has arrived in the United States.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a respiratory disease, which was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

 "We've anticipated MERS reaching the US, and we've prepared for and are taking swift action," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., according to a news release, "We're doing everything possible with hospital, local, and state health officials to find people who may have had contact with this person so they can be evaluated as appropriate.  This case reminds us that we are all connected by the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.  We can break the chain of transmission in this case through focused efforts here and abroad."

CDC hasn't revealed any personal details about the U.S patient with the infection.

According to the agency, the patient took a plane to London from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 24, 2014. The person then flew from London to Chicago and then took a bus to Indiana. The person began displaying symptoms of an infection April 27th. Indiana public health officials tested the patient for MERS CoV after checking travel history and the symptoms. Later, the CDC confirmed the presence of the virus.

The patient is now in a stable condition, the agency said.                            

Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Disease, said that the first case of MERS CoV infection in the U.S  "represents a very low risk to the general public." The infection can spread between people. However, there is no evidence to  suggest that the virus has infected other people in the U.S.

CDC said that the virus has currently caused 401 infections in 12 countries. Some 93 people have died due to the disease.

Debra Spicehandler, a doctor at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York, told Bloomberg Businessweek that such patients suffer " infection in their lungs." And, that the patients "need ventilators, can't breathe and get overwhelming lung infection."

According to health officials, the patient might have caught the virus during the trip to Saudi Arabia.

Scientists at various institutes are trying to find how the virus originated and spread. There is currently no treatment or vaccination against the disease. One theory is that camels are a source of the virus.

"In this interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS-CoV to make its way to the United States," said Dr. Tom Frieden, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  "We have been preparing since 2012 for this possibility."

The World Health Organization has not issued any Travel Health Warnings for any country with confirmed cases of MERS CoV. 

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