MUNSTER, Ind. (CBS) — The first person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with the deadly MERS virus has been steadily improving, and should be able to go home from the hospital soon.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports the man had been living in Saudi Arabia, working at a hospital that has patients with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), but it’s not yet clear if that’s where the man contracted the virus.
Starting April 24, the man traveled from Saudi Arabia to the U.S. to visit family in Indiana. He flew from Riyadh to London, then to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, where he boarded a bus to Indiana. On April 27, he developed a fever and cough, and checked himself into Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, where he was diagnosed with the MERS coronavirus.
The virus has never before been seen inside the U.S. That’s why doctors from the Centers for Disease Control joined state health officials in trying to make sure the virus does not spread, given that it kills 1 in 3 people who it infects.
Dr. Daniel Feikin said it’s not surprising MERS has made its way to the U.S. He said it was just a matter of time before the virus showed up here.
Doctors said the Indiana patient has recovered quickly, and recently was taken off oxygen support.
“He has been improving every day, as was mentioned. He no longer has any oxygen requirements. He’s in good spirits. He’s eating well, and we have started the discharge planning process at this point,” said Dr. Alan Kumar, chief medical information officer at Community Hospital.
Community Hospital CEO Don Fesko said the patient has had “very limited” activity in the U.S. since flying in from overseas, so has had limited contact with other people.
“However, in an abundance of caution, the exposed family members and healthcare workers have been monitored daily to watch for the development of any signs or symptoms of MERS,” Fesko said.
All of those people have tested negative so far, but tests will continue for several more days, as the virus has a 14-day incubation period. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Doctors said there’s no evidence the virus spreads through casual contact, so the people who were on the same planes and bus as the patient are not considered at high risk of infection, but health officials have been reaching out to those passengers, and no other cases have been reported to date.
Feikin said those most at risk are those who have traveled in the Middle East.
“Travelers returning from the Arabian peninsula who develop fever, cough, or other respiratory symptoms within 14 days of arrival,” he said.