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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

1st MERS Case Reported in U.S.

Patient had recently been in Saudi Arabia, epicenter of outbreak that has sickened 400 people and killed 93, CDC says
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Because of the patient's symptoms -- shortness of breath, coughing and fever -- and travel history, Indiana health officials tested for MERS and confirmed the infection Friday afternoon, the CDC officials said.

CDC officials are working with the airline and the bus company to track down people who may have come in contact with the patient, Schuchat said.

To date, there have been 401 confirmed cases of MERS in 12 countries, but all the cases originated in six countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Ninety-three people have died. Officials don't know where the virus came from or how it spreads. Currently, there is no available vaccine or recommended treatment for the virus, the CDC said.

"In this interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS to make its way to the United States," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. "We have been preparing since 2012 for this possibility."

People who come down with respiratory illness within 12 weeks of traveling to Saudi Arabia should notify their doctor, Schuchat said. The same goes for someone who becomes ill after contact with a person who has recently traveled to Saudi Arabia.

However, the CDC has not recommended that anyone change their travel plans based on the MERS virus, she said.

Camels have been identified as carriers of MERS, but it's not known how the virus is being spread to people.

Dr. Debra Spicehandler, an infectious disease expert at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., said, "MERS is very similar to the SARS cases we saw a few years ago. It is dangerous and is associated with acute respiratory illness. It can be spread from person to person in close contact, and there is no treatment for it at this point."

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