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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Hospital Workers Who Treated MERS Patient Fall Ill

Testing for the potentially fatal respiratory infection is underway, officials say


MERS symptoms typically include shortness of breath, coughing and fever.

However, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the U.S. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Monday that it is "likely that if you have not already developed symptoms you are not likely to."

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said his agency was contacting the airlines on which the patient traveled, but the risk to people traveling with a person infected with MERS is unknown.

CDC officials cautioned that while the patient felt the symptoms of the MERS virus while traveling from Saudi Arabia, it wasn't clear if the patient was infectious at that time.

There are 538 confirmed cases of MERS worldwide, and 145 deaths. The vast majority of cases and deaths -- 450 and 118, respectively -- have occurred in Saudi Arabia.

One-fifth of all MERS cases have occurred among health care workers, Schuchat said.

Frieden added, "We would not be surprised to see more cases, but we are not predicting there will be."

On April 28, another U.S. health care worker who'd had close contact with MERS patients in Saudi Arabia was admitted to an Indiana hospital and was later diagnosed with the respiratory ailment.

He was released from Community Hospital in Munster on Friday.

MERS kills about one-quarter of the people who contract the virus, Schuchat said at a May 2 news conference.

In some countries, the virus has spread from person to person through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. But, there's currently no evidence of sustained spread of MERS in general settings, the CDC has said.

The first patient took a plane on April 24 from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to London, then from London to Chicago. He then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. On April 27, he started experiencing "respiratory symptoms," and was admitted to Community Hospital the next day, the CDC said.

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

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