First U.S. MERS case reported in Indiana

By Kyle Johnson,

The first case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus in the United States was discovered on Friday in Indiana.

The patient went through London on his way from Saudi Arabia to Chicago and then rode a bus the rest of the way home, reports CNN. Dr. Anne Schuchat, the U.S. Public Health Service assistant surgeon general and the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said the patient was overseas helping as a healthcare worker.

The patient is being kept in an isolated room in a hospital, but Schuchat stressed people the person came into contact with during the trip home have little to fear as MERS doesn't spread easily and offers a "very low risk to the broader public."

All cases of MERS, which is similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), have originated in the Arabian Peninsula and at the moment it is believed to primarily be spread by camels. Close contact between people is needed for the virus to spread, leaving healthcare workers in a vulnerable position.

The virus was first reported in 2012 and the World Health Organization says since then there have been 250 confirmed cases and 93 deaths, according to NBC News. Saudi Arabia claims to have had 371 cases, with 107 deaths, but not all cases have been confirmed by WHO.

As previously reported, MERS presents with flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, and some patients then develop pneumonia. The virus is seen as much deadlier to SARS and there is not currently a cure, but Saudi Arabia said last week that it was working towards the creation of a vaccine.

Some questioned whether that was a reasonable move due to how difficult it is for the virus to spread anyway and other issues should be addressed first. Reading University virologist Ian Jones said, "I can see it works as an appeasement - that they want to say they can make it," but more emphasis should be put into keeping the virus from spreading between humans and animals.

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