Just two years after first becoming know in the Middle East, a potentially fatal illness that attacks the respiratory system arrived the U.S. at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago aboard an aircraft just 10 days ago.
The news that the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome known as MERS, a virus that one estimate says has killed nearly 25% of the small numbers of people confirmed to have been infected, is now on U.S. soil which triggered investigations by state and federal officials.
The Center for Disease Control said to date there have been 401 infections of MERS confirmed in 12 countries, including the recent case in the U.S.
All of the reported cases have an origination in one of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula: the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Oman. Thus far, 93 of the patients infected had died, said the CDC.
Officials at the CDC said MERS was carried to the U.S. on April 24 by an individual who had flown to Chicago from London after arriving in London from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The patient then went to Indiana on a bus.
Three days after that, the patient began to cough and have a fever and visited a hospital in Munster, Indiana.
Doctors said they did a test to see if it was the MERS virus. The test confirmed the virus.
Official in the Indiana Health Department are reaching out to all the people who had come into contact with the person carrying the virus.
Health officials said the other passengers on the plane with the patient were not considered high risk. Nonetheless, officials said the CDC was already contacting passengers.
No other specific information was released about the patient and where he had traveled.
Symptoms of MERS are cough, fever and problems with the respiratory system. However, there is no vaccine or specific type of treatment. Health officials still do not know all there is about the disease.
MERS is a new form of what researches now call coronaviruses. A group of diseases that is widespread including pneumonia and the common cold. SARS virus, which is highly contagious and killed hundreds in North America and Asia during the early 2000s, is a coronavirus as well.
The first patient discovered with MERS was a Saudi Arabian in the summer of 2012. Some medical experts believe the MERS virus was originated from an animal because it has also been found in bats and camels in the Middle East.