Robert Roos at CIDRAP sums up the big story of the day: First US MERS patient worked in Saudi Arabia healthcare. Excerpt:
A person who recently worked in healthcare in Saudi Arabia and fell ill after flying to the United States on Apr 24 has the first confirmed US case of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), federal health officials announced today while asserting that there is very little risk to the public.
The patient, who was not identified, was admitted to Community Hospital in Munster, Ind., on Apr 28, tested positive for MERS this afternoon, and is in stable condition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced. To protect the patient's family, the CDC did not reveal the person's gender, age, or whether he or she is a US or Saudi resident.
"The first importation of MERS-CoV infection represents a very low risk to the general public," said Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at a press teleconference this afternoon. "The virus has not shown an ability to spread easily."
The case comes amid a major increase in MERS illnesses in Saudi Arabia over the past several weeks, including many in healthcare workers (HCWs). Riyadh is one of the cities that have had many recent cases, along with Jeddah.
"We do not have any reports of any other patients ill with MERS-CoV in this investigation. But it's a very active investigation and very early," said Schuchat.
From Riyadh to London to Chicago
The patient flew on Apr 24 from Riyadh to London and on to Chicago, then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana, CDC officials and the Indiana State Department of Health (IDPH) said.
He or she got sick with a cough, shortness of breath, and fever on Apr 27, the IDPH said in a statement. The person went to the Munster hospital's emergency department the next day and was admitted.
In view of the patient's symptoms and travel history, physicians decided a MERS test was in order, the IDPH said.
The patient is receiving oxygen but is "generally stable" and does not require a ventilator at this point, Schuchcat said.
The hospital has contacted "all high-risk individuals" about the case, the IDPH said. It said anyone who visited the hospital's emergency department between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Apr 28 should contact their healthcare provider if they experience symptoms.
Out of "an abundance of caution," the CDC and its partners are contacting those who traveled with the patient by airliner and bus so they can be alert for any possible MERS symptoms, officials said. The agency did not disclose the airline flights or the bus line involved.
Schuchat said the agency is working with the Department of Homeland Security and the airline industry to contact passengers. "We don't anticipate issuing a broader alert at this time," she said.
Officials said they didn't know yet how the person caught the virus, but they acknowledged that the exposure "may have occurred" in Saudi Arabia. Schuchat said it was unknown whether the patient had any contact with camels, which are known to carry the virus and are suspected of passing it to humans.