By John Dodge
CHICAGO (CBS) — Health officials say a patient in Northwest Indiana, who traveled through Chicago, has contracted a deadly virus from the Middle East, marking the first time the virus has turned up in the United States.
The Centers For Disease Control said on Friday that this is a “rapidly evolving situation.’
The person was a healthcare provider who recently traveled from Saudi Arabia and is now in a hospital in Indiana. Between April 24-27, the person flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to London and into O’Hare International Airport and then took a bus to Indiana.
The CDC says it is investigating along with health officials in Indiana. The patient is being treated at Community Hospital in Munster, Ind.
“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 Mike 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.”
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. There has been a surge in cases since March.
Saudi Arabia has 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.
People with existing conditions or weakened immune systems are more at risk, officials say.
Doctors are not sure how it spreads, but appears to be passed from persons who are in close contact. The virus has spread mostly in hospitals, not in communities.
The U.S. patient began to suffer symptoms–shortness of breath, coughing and fever–on April 27.
The person was admitted to the hospital the following day and is listed in good condition.
“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 spokeswoman Andrea Farmer said in a statement.
“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.”