Indiana reports no new MERS cases
The first American MERS patient to be diagnosed with the illness is improving, and is expected to be released from the hospital soon.
Health officials from Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana provided an update on the patient Wednesday. So far, lab tests show that all hospital workers who came into contact with the patient have tested negative for MERS. The patient's family has also tested negative.
The patient is an American citizen and health care worker who lives and works in Saudi Arabia. The patient traveled from Saudi Arabia to Chicago, then took a bus to Munster, prompting an alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Having the first case of MERS in the United States appear right here in Indiana is a scary situation and I understand the concerns felt by those who live and work in the Chicago and northwestern Indiana area," said State Health Commissioner William VanNess II, M.D. "I want to assure everyone that our state medical experts, CDC and Community Hospital in Munster have been working around the clock to contain the spread of this disease and protect Americans."
The Indiana State Department of Health continues to work with the hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others to monitor the situation and prevent the spread of the virus. Out of an abundance of caution, health officials continue to reach out to airline and bus passengers who may have come into contact with the patient during travel.
Individuals who took a shuttle bus from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois to Highland, Indiana on April 24, between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. CST, are asked to call the CDC hotline at 1-866-933-5295. There has been no evidence of community-level transmission of this virus, such as from casual contact.
Hospital staff who had direct contact with the patient continue to remain off-duty and in temporary home isolation and are being closely monitored for symptoms. These staff members will be allowed to return to work following the incubation period and confirmed negative laboratory results.
For questions about MERS, call the Indiana State Department of Health hotline at 1-877-826-0011, which is being answered daily, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT. A voicemail system is available for callers to leave a message during off hours. All calls will be returned first thing the following morning.
To keep you and your family healthy by reducing your risk of disease, follow CDC's tips below:
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
· Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people.
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.