CDC: First US MERS case likely passed virus to Illinois man

Saturday, May 17, 2014
By Paul Martin

Lisa Schnirring
May 17, 2014

Federal health officials today said blood tests have found evidence of infection in an Illinois man who had close contact with the patient who had the United States’ first case of imported Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). This represents the nation’s first known secondary infection in ongoing investigations into illnesses involving two health professionals, the other one from Florida, who became ill after traveling from Saudi Arabia.

The Illinois man met with the patient twice in a face-to-face business setting shortly before the first patient’s illness was detected, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today. The first patient, who had worked in a Riyadh hospital before traveling to the United States, was admitted to an Indiana hospital on Apr 28, where his illness was confirmed May 2. He was released from the hospital on May 9.

At a media briefing today, David Swerdlow, MD, who leads the CDC’s MERS response, said the case sheds more light on the spectrum of the disease and its transmission patterns. “We still don’t think this virus transmits easily, but it does transmit,” he said.

Swerdlow said the Illinois man met with the Indiana patient on Apr 25 once for 30 to 40 minutes, then met with him again briefly on Apr 26. The Indiana patient had traveled back to Illinois by car to see his business associate and was sick with fever and muscle aches during the meeting, though he reportedly didn’t have respiratory symptoms at that time. The two men shook hands and were within 6 feet of each other.

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