Illinois man tests positive for MERS: 3rd case in U.S. - FOX 13 News

Illinois man tests positive for MERS: 3rd case in U.S.

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A third person in the United States tested positive for the MERS virus after a simple handshake with the infected MERS patient in Indiana.

“This business associate was an Illinois resident, has been identified as having evidence of past infection with MERS-CoV,” said Dr. David Swerdlow, a lead investigator at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This Illinois resident is the first person to test positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome while in the United States. The two other patients were men who had worked in healthcare in Saudi Arabia and had traveled back to the United States.

Case number three had two 30 minute business meetings with the Indiana MERS patient before he was hospitalized. The CDC said the positive test result came in late Friday night.

“This case looks like the first case of transmission and as we’ve said all along we anticipate there will be more imported cases to the United States given travel. What we haven’t anticipated is easy transmission,” said Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The Illinois resident started to show some allergy-like symptoms, but nothing that would have required hospital or doctor attention, so he did not seek medical care. However, health officials have been monitoring him since May 3 as part of a CDC investigation. The incubation period for MERS can be as long as 14 days.

According to the CDC, the Illinois man is said to be feeling well and is not hospitalized.

FOX 32’s Tisha Lewis reports public health workers have asked the Illinois resident to remain isolated and avoid interaction with the community; there could be more MERS cases in the coming weeks.

Officially, the World Health Organization is not including the Illinois resident as a MERS case because the antibody test that was done on him is not the official test that is required to make that classification. However, the CDC believes he does have the virus.

The health department first tested the Illinois man for active MERS infection on May 5, but results were initially negative, the CDC said.

MERS was first reported to cause human infection in September 2012 and is thought to have originated in the Middle East, the CDC said. It has killed about 30 percent of the patients it infects, the CDC said. Most of those are elderly people who had other health issues, the CDC added.

As of May 12, 536 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS infection have been reported, the CDC said, a number that includes 1,455 deaths. All reported cases have been directly or indirectly linked through travel or residence to seven countries: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, and Yemen, according to the CDC.

“This latest development does not change CDC’s current recommendations to prevent the spread of MERS,” said David Swerdlow, who is leading CDC’s MERS response. “It’s possible that as the investigation continues others may also test positive for MERS-CoV infection but not get sick.

Symptoms of MERS include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

“Along with state and local health experts, CDC will investigate those initial cases and if new information is learned that requires us to change our prevention recommendations, we can do so.”

According to the CDC, there have been three confirmed MERS’ reports in the U.S. to date. The other incident was reported in Florida on May 11, the CDC added.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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