NEW YORK - The Centers for Disease Control confirmed on Friday that a patient in Indiana has contracted the first case of the MERS virus in the U.S.
MERS, short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus infection (or MERS-CoV), had previously been linked to six countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula, with Saudi Arabia believed to be the center of infection.
Individuals who have become infected with the MERS virus has developed severe acute respiratory illness, fever and cough. Approximately 30 percent of those who became symptomatic after infection have died, according to the CDC.
Shortly after receiving lab confirmation of the MERS virus, the CDC and Indiana Health Department held a press conference detailing their findings.
"The patient, a healthcare provider, recently traveled from Saudi Arabia," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "The patient is isolated, in stable condition and being well cared-for in an Indiana hospital."
Schuchat said the CDC believes the patient traveled on April 24 by plane from Riyadh, Saudi Arabai, to London and then Chicago, where they took a bus to Indiana.
The patient was admitted on April 28 to Community Hospital in Munster, Ind., where doctors performed the MERS-CoV test.
No other cases of MERS have yet been reported to the CDC, although Schuchat said she would not be surprised if additional infections occurred among hospital staff who came into contact with the patient prior to isolation.
Schuchat said that although the virus can be deadly, it has not shown the ability to easily transmit from person to person.
"MERS virus is of great concern because of the virulence. For a respiratory virus to have about a third of people who show symptoms die, that's a very severe presentation," Schuchat said. "On the other hand, it hasn't shown the ability to easily spread. We're not aware yet of sustained transmission in the community. "
While the CDC is investigating the infection with "an abundance of caution," according to Schuchat, the threat to the general public is limited.
"The first importation of MERS Coronavirus to the U.S. represents a very low risk to the broader public," she said.
Community Hospital in Munster has advised anyone who visited the hospital's emergency department between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on April 28 to watch for signs and symptoms of MERS, which are similar to those of influenza and include congestion, fever of more than 100.4 degrees, body aches and diarrhea.