The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

May 3, 2014

It's here ... How dangerous is it?

NEW YORK — Health officials confirmed the first case of an American infected with a mysterious virus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East.

The man fell ill after flying to the U.S. late last week from Saudi Arabia where he was a health care worker.

He is hospitalized in good condition in northwest Indiana with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Indiana health officials said Friday.

The virus is not highly contagious and this case "represents a very low risk to the broader, general public," Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters during a CDC briefing.

The federal agency plans to track down passengers he may have been in close contact with during his travels; it was not clear how many may have been exposed to the virus.

So far, it is not known how he was infected, Schuchat said.

Saudi Arabia has been at the center of a Middle East outbreak of MERS that began two years ago. The virus has spread among health care workers, most notably at four facilities in that country last spring.

Officials didn't provide details about the American's job in Saudi Arabia or whether he treated MERS patients.

Overall, at least 400 people have had the respiratory illness, and more than 100 people have died. All had ties to the Middle East region or to people who traveled there.

Experts said it was just a matter of time before MERS showed up in the U.S., as it has in Europe and Asia.

"Given the interconnectedness of our world, there's no such thing as 'it stays over there and it can't come here,'" said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University MERS expert.

MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003.

The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials don't know how it is spreading to humans. It can spread from person to person, but officials believe that happens only after close contact. Not all those exposed to the virus become ill.

But it appears to be unusually lethal — by some estimates, it has killed nearly a third of the people it sickened. That's a far higher percentage than seasonal flu or other routine infections. But it is not as contagious as flu, measles or other diseases. There is no vaccine or cure and there's specific treatment except to relieve symptoms.

Federal and state health officials on Friday released only limited information about the U.S. case: On April 24, the man flew from Riyadh — Saudi Arabia's capital and largest city — to the United States, with a stop in London. He landed in Chicago and took a bus to nearby Indiana. He didn't become sick until Sunday, the CDC said.

He went to the emergency room at Community Hospital in Munster the next day with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. He was admitted and tested for the MERS virus because he had traveled from the Middle East. The hospital said he was in good condition.

As a precaution, the hospital said it would monitor the man's family and health care workers who treated him for any signs of infection.

There's been a recent surge in MERS illnesses in Saudi Arabia; cases have tended to increase in the spring. Experts think the uptick may partly be due to more and better surveillance. Columbia's Lipkin has an additional theory — there may be more virus circulating in the spring, when camels are born.

The CDC has issued no warnings about travel to countries involved in the outbreak. However, anyone who develops fever, cough or shortness of breath within two weeks of traveling in or near the Arabian Peninsula should see their doctor and mention their travel history.

___

Online:

http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/index.html

 

1
Text Only
National and world
  • Economic Recovery web.jpg U.S. economy, though sluggish, may now be sturdier

    • Inflation is under control. Runaway price increases would be destructive. Low inflation can lay a foundation for growth.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Casualty numbers raise questions about Gaza war

    A Palestinian health official put the death toll at 695 and said more than 4,100 were wounded, with civilian casualties rising sharply since Israel sent tanks and troops into Gaza last week in its first ground operation in five years.
    Israel has not offered its own count, but Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said Wednesday that 210 Gaza militants were killed since the ground operation began.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Oil Train Fires web.jpg Stopping deadly oil train fires: New rules planned

    Accident investigators have complained for decades that older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, are too easily punctured or ruptured, spilling their contents when derailed. Since 2008, there have been 10 significant derailments in the U.S. and Canada in which crude oil has spilled from ruptured tank cars, often igniting and resulting in huge fireballs. The worst was a runaway oil train that exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic a year ago, killing 47 people.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taiwan Plane Crash web.jpg Relatives fly to Taiwan plane crash site, 48 dead

    Penghu in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China late Wednesday, authorities said. The plane was on a flight from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona Execution web.jpg Arizona inmate dies 2 hours after execution began

    Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Flights Canceled Israel web.jpg Airlines ban flights to Israel after rocket strike

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Health overhaul web.jpg Dueling rulings: Courts split on health law clash

    But the split rulings don’t necessarily mean another trip to the Supreme Court for the Affordable Care Act.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Senate Georgia web.jpg Perdue defeats Kingston in Georgia Senate runoff

    Tuesday night’s primary runoff win validates Perdue’s campaign as an outsider.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • ODD Brooklyn Bridge M_Hass.jpg Police probing switch of flags on Brooklyn Bridge

    Video footage of the security breach shows the unidentified people walking on the bridge's footpath at about 3:10 a.m., and 20 minutes later the light on the bridge's Brooklyn tower flickers and goes dark. The same thing happens about 12 minutes later on the Manhattan tower.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Veterans Health_Hass.jpg Obama nominee McDonald pledges to ‘transform’ VA

    Robert McDonald cited problems with patient access to health care, transparency, accountability and integrity, among other issues, during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee over his nomination today.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo 3 Stories

Featured Ads