First MERS Patient in U.S. is Improving

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The first patient in the U.S. to be infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus is improving, and may be sent home soon, doctors said Monday.

The unnamed patient, who was diagnosed with the MERS virus on Friday, is in good condition at Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. He no longer needs oxygen support, said Alan Kumar, chief medical information officer at Community Hospital, in a press conference. The patient is eating and walking around, and the hospital expects that he will be going home soon.

The patient was placed in full isolation upon arrival at the hospital Friday, and all staff members who had contact with him previously have tested negative for the disease. These staff members are still being closely monitored for any symptoms of the virus, and will be allowed to return to work after the incubation period for the disease is over, which could be up to 14 days.

The patient lives in Saudi Arabia, where the virus has infected hundreds and killed at least 100, and works at a hospital there. He came to Indiana on a planned visit to see family, arriving in Chicago and then taking a bus to Indiana. On April 27 he starting feeling ill and went to Community Hospital on the 28th. Authorities said he has been completely cooperative.

MERS is in the same virus family as SARS. It has no vaccine or treatment, and researchers believe the disease may have come from camels. So far, human transmission has only occurred among people with close contact with infected people.

The CDC and Indiana State Department of Health are working together to make sure all necessary precautions are taken. Health officials say that there were about 100 people on his flight and about 10 people on his bus. Three-fourths of the travelers have been contacted.


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