CDC confirms first case of MERS infection in US - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

CDC confirms first case of MERS infection in US

Updated:
Health officials say a deadly virus from the Middle East has turned up for the first time in the U.S.

The CDC says it is investigating along with health officials in Indiana. The patient, who is in stable condition, turned up at Community Hospital in Munster on April 28.

Health officials say the patient, who is a health care worker, traveled by plane on April 24, 2014, from Saudi Arabia to London, then from London to Chicago.

The CDC believes the patient took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. The patient began to feel ill on April 27th and went to an emergency room on the 28th.

Human cases of MERS have been reported in Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirate, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Britain, Tunisia, Malaysia and the Philippines. 

There’s no specific treatment, no cure and no vaccine for MERS. 

Middle East respiratory syndrome - or MERS - first surfaced two years ago. Since then, at least 400 cases of the respiratory illness have been reported, and more than 100 people have died.

Saudi Arabia was been the center of the outbreak. All the victims have had ties to the Middle East or to someone who traveled there.

The virus has been found in camels, but officials don't know how it is spreading to humans.

Learn more about MERS.

From the Indiana Department of Health:

A case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been confirmed in a patient in Northwestern Indiana today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Indiana State Department of Health is working with CDC and others to identify potential additional cases and to prevent further transmission of the disease. This is the first case of MERS-CoV in the United States.

MERS-CoV is viral respiratory illness which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Health officials do not know where the virus came from or exactly how it spreads. There is no available vaccine or specific treatment recommended for the virus. While MERS-CoV has been shown to spread in hospitals, there is currently no evidence of sustained spread of MERS-CoV in community settings.

"I want to assure every Hoosier that we have deployed the full resources of the Indiana State Department of Health to engage in tracking this case, assessing the risk to the public, and working to prevent the spread of this virus," said Governor Pence. "We are working in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and encourage those who may have been exposed to this virus to report any symptoms to their medical provider and take all necessary precautions. Further, I commend Community Hospital in Munster, their staff and physicians for their swift professionalism in diagnosing and addressing this case."

On April 24, the patient traveled by plane from Saudi Arabia to London, England then from London to Chicago, Illinois. The patient then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. On the 27th, the patient began to experience increasing respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, coughing, and fever. The patient visited the Emergency Department at Community Hospital in Munster on April 28 and was admitted that same day.

The patient is being well cared for, is isolated and is in stable condition. Because of the patient's symptoms and travel history, physicians at the hospital decided a MERS-CoV test was appropriate.

Community Hospital in Munster has contacted all high-risk individuals. In an abundance of caution, individuals who visited the Emergency Department (ED) of Community Hospital in Munster between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on April 28, 2014 should watch for signs and symptoms. If you visited the ED during this time and begin experiencing symptoms, please call your healthcare provider and let them know about your possible exposure to MERS-CoV.

The symptoms of MERS-CoV are similar to the symptoms of influenza, and include:

· Congestion

· Cough

· Fever over 100.4

· Shortness of breath

· Pneumonia

· Body aches

· Diarrhea

Although the MERS-CoV infection is not easily spread from person-to-person, close contacts of people with MERS-CoV can develop infections.

"We are doing everything in our power to work with the hospital, federal and other state partners, as well as the local health department to track and contain this disease in Indiana," said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D.

If you do not have any of the symptoms, you can continue with your daily activities, such as going to work, school, or other public areas.

To help prevent the spread of MERS-CoV to other people, CDC advises that people follow these tips:

· 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.

The Indiana State Department of Health has established a hotline for Hoosiers to call with questions. The hotline will be open seven days a week until further notice from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The number is 1-877-826-0011.

From the CDC:


Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was confirmed today in a traveler to the United States. This virus is relatively new to humans and was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

“We’ve anticipated MERS reaching the US, and we’ve prepared for and are taking swift action,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “We’re doing everything possible with hospital, local, and state health officials to find people who may have had contact with this person so they can be evaluated as appropriate. This case reminds us that we are all connected by the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. We can break the chain of transmission in this case through focused efforts here and abroad.”

On April 24, the patient traveled by plane from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to London, England then from London to Chicago, Illinois. The patient then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. On the 27th, the patient began to experience respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, coughing, and fever. The patient went to an emergency department in an Indiana hospital on April 28th and was admitted on that same day. The patient is being well cared for and is isolated; the patient is currently in stable condition. Because of the patient’s symptoms and travel history, Indiana public health officials tested for MERS-CoV. The Indiana state public health laboratory and CDC confirmed MERS-CoV infection in the patient this afternoon.

“It is understandable that some may be concerned about this situation, but this first U.S. case of MERS-CoV infection represents a very low risk to the general public,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases. In some countries, the virus has spread from person to person through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. However, there is currently no evidence of sustained spread of MERS-CoV in community settings.

CDC and Indiana health officials are not yet sure how the patient became infected with the virus. Exposure may have occurred in Saudi Arabia, where outbreaks of MERS-CoV infection are occurring. Officials also do not know exactly how many people have had close contact with the patient.

So far, including this U.S. importation, there have been 401 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection in 12 countries. To date, all reported cases have originated in six countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Most of these people developed severe acute respiratory illness, with fever, cough, and shortness of breath; 93 people died. Officials do not know where the virus came from or exactly how it spreads. There is no available vaccine or specific treatment recommended for the virus.

“In this interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS-CoV to make its way to the United States,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have been preparing since 2012 for this possibility."

Federal, state, and local health officials are taking action to minimize the risk of spread of the virus. The Indiana hospital is using full precautions to avoid exposure within the hospital and among healthcare professionals and other people interacting with the patient, as recommended by CDC.

In July 2013, CDC posted checklists and resource lists for healthcare facilities and providers to assist with preparing to implement infection control precautions for MERS-CoV.

As part of the prevention and control measures, officials are reaching out to close contacts to provide guidance about monitoring their health.

While experts do not yet know exactly how this virus is spread, CDC advises Americans to help protect themselves from respiratory illnesses by washing hands often, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoid touching their eyes, nose and/or mouth with unwashed hands, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

The largest reported outbreak to date occurred April through May 2013 in eastern Saudi Arabia and involved 23 confirmed cases in four healthcare facilities. At this time, CDC does not recommend anyone change their travel plans. 

Statement from Community Hospital in Munster: 

Today, May 2, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) conducted a joint press briefing to announce the first confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the United States. As just announced by the ISDH, the patient is being treated at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana. In light of federal privacy regulations, we can only disclose that the patient is in good condition. We are maintaining appropriate isolation protocols for the protection of health care staff.

Community Hospital recognized the possibility of the MERS infection and acted quickly to institute isolation protocols to contain the possible spread of the virus. Community Hospital has been working cooperatively with the CDC and ISDH regarding tracking of patient family members and monitoring of exposed health care workers. This patient was not out in the local community and, therefore, any public exposure was minimal.

Again, this disease requires close contact for transmission, and the patient's activities in the United States have been very limited and thus widespread cases are not expected. However, in an abundance of caution, the exposed family members and health care workers will be monitored daily throughout the 14-day incubation period to watch for the development of any signs or symptoms of MERS-CoV. Since there is limited data regarding MERS-CoV, and because this is the first confirmed case in the United States, Community Hospital will be a data surveillance site for the CDC.

As noted by the Indiana Governor's Office and the ISDH, Community Hospital recognized and identified this rare disease and acted quickly to contain the situation and protect the public.

Purdue Research

"I don't think there's any danger to the general public," Dr. Andrew Mesecar said Saturday. "It doesn't spread from human to human very easily, we've known this now for well over a year."

While the first U. S. case has now been reported in Indiana, the state already has a leg up.

"We have at least 5 to 6 people here at Purdue that are trying to develop drug molecules for the virus and we've made a lot of headway," Dr. Mesecar said.

Students and researchers at Purdue have been looking into MERS since the first global case was reported.

"We were available to capitalize on the DNA sequence and made these enzymes and begin testing them in the lab right away," he said.

They've learned it's a corona virus -- something that's found in the common cold, and also found in SARS, but despite the research, a quick fix for MERS will take awhile.

"We've been working on SARS for about ten years now and we're still a long ways off," he said.
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