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First case of MERS virus confirmed in U.S.

By CBS/AP 4:07 PM May 2, 2014

Last Updated May 2, 2014 7:04 PM EDT

A deadly virus from the Middle East has turned up for the first time in the United States, health officials say.

An American who works as health care worker in Saudi Arabia is hospitalized in Indiana with the MERS virus. Officials said Friday the patient was diagnosed with Middle East respiratory syndrome after returning to the U.S. about a week ago. On Friday afternoon, the patient was reported to be in good condition at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana.

Saudi Arabia was been the center of an outbreak of MERS, which first surfaced two years ago. At least 400 cases have been reported, and more than 100 people have died. The virus has been found in camels, but officials don’t know how it is spreading to humans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the U.S. case to track down anyone he had close contact with recently. Officials say the man flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to London, England and then to Chicago, Illinois. The patient then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana.”We are working with partners to make sure that the person they traveled with are contacted and notified and be on the look out for symptoms,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat with the CDC.

“In this interconnected world we have expected MERS-CoV to make its way to us,” said Dr. Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, in a press conference held by the agency.

The director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden, said health officials have been preparing for the possibility of the virus making its way to this country. “We’ve anticipated MERS reaching the US, and we’ve prepared for and are taking swift action,” he said. “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.”

CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports the Indiana patient is in isolation, in stable condition. There’s no specific treatment or vaccine for MERS, LaPook said. When it spreads from person to person, it appears to be through close contact.

CBS/AP

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