As we wait for details on the second case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the United States, here's some good news about the first one: The patient was released from a hospital Friday and is considered fully recovered, according to the Indiana Department of Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference on the new case, a patient in Florida. But health officials reported Saturday that the first case, an unnamed U.S. health-care worker who had been living and working in Saudi Arabia, is fine.
“The patient has tested negative for MERS, is no longer symptomatic and poses no threat to the community,” said Alan Kumar, chief medical information officer at the Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. The hospital talked to the CDC before releasing the patient, the hospital said.
MERS comes from the same family, coronavirus, as the one that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which killed almost 800 people worldwide in 2003. MERS had been confirmed in 401 people in 12 countries, earlier this month, causing 93 deaths. The cases originated in six countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Most of these people developed severe acute respiratory illness, with fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The virus's incubation period — the time between exposure and development of symptoms — is about five days, similar to SARS. While experts do not know how the MERS virus is spread, the CDC advises Americans to protect themselves by washing their hands often, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoiding touches to their eyes, nose and/or mouth with unwashed hands, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. People who develop fever and cough or shortness of breath within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula should see a doctor.
The Indiana patient traveled from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to London on April 24, and then to Chicago by air. He took a bus to the Highland, Ind. area and went to Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. after falling ill. He was kept in isolation until he recovered. Authorities contacted most of the passengers on the flights and the bus, and none are symptomatic, according to the Indiana health department. So far there has been no clear evidence that the virus can be transmitted by casual contact.
Hospital staff who had direct contact with the patient are still off duty and remain in temporary isolation in their homes until lab results confirm they are not infected.