First American Case Of MERS Reported In Indiana

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the first case of Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus, or MERS, has been confirmed in the U.S. A health care worker in Indiana who recently returned from Saudi Arabia has been hospitalized and is critical condition.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The first case of MERS has been confirmed in the U.S. MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Virus Syndrome. Health officials say a man in Indiana was hospitalized on Monday and is in stable condition. NPR's Rob Stein reports that while precautions are being taken to contain the virus, there is no reason for widespread alarm.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: International public health authorities have been keeping an eye on the MERS virus since it emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It causes a serious, often fatal respiratory infection. And there's no vaccine to protect people against it or drugs to treat it. Anne Schuchat at the CDC says officials knew it was just a matter of time before MERS showed up in this country.

ANNE SCHUCHAT: In this interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS to make its way to the United States and we have been preparing for this.

STEIN: The first U.S. MERS patient is an American who got infected while working in a hospital in Saudi Arabia. Late last week, the man flew from Riyadh to London and then on to Chicago. He then took a bus to Indiana. On Sunday, he started coughing, developed a fever and began having trouble breathing and went to an emergency room. The CDC's Schuchat says he's now in stable condition in an Indiana hospital.

SCHUCHAT: MERS is now in our heartland.

STEIN: Officials are trying to determine exactly how he got infected and whether he infected anyone else on his trip, including people on the two planes, the bus and the hospital where he's being treated. But Schuchat says it doesn't appear the virus spreads very easily.

SCHUCHAT: There is currently no evidence of sustained spread of MERS in community settings.

STEIN: Nevertheless, the hospital caring for the first U.S. MERS patient is trying to make sure the virus doesn't start to spread there. And state and federal health officials are keeping a very close eye on the situation to make sure no one else gets infected. Rob Stein, NPR News.

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