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Deadly respiratory disease MERS hits US for the first time

Deadly respiratory disease MERS hits US for the first time

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The first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus infection (Mers-CoV) has been confirmed in the US, the CDC reports. The virus was first detected in Saudia Arabia in November 2012, but it had not yet reached North America.

The infected patient, a healthcare provider, likely caught the virus in the Middle East, the CDC said in a conference call today. The patient left Saudi Arabia on 24 April, traveled first to Chicago and then to Indiana, but did not develop symptoms until after arriving in the US. The patient was admitted to a Hospital in Indiana on 28 April, and is now in stable condition.

Health officials do not know if others have been infected

Health officials do not yet know if others have been infected, but they are trying to get in touch with everyone who may have come in contact with the patient — including people on the plane to Chicago. The incubation period is of about five days and some people don't develop symptoms, said Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, during the conference call. Middle aged people are most at risk, but children and the elderly can also become infected, the CDC said. "There is a very active investigation, and the details are still being worked out," Schuchat said, adding that "we have seen about a third of [people infected with MERS] die from the virus" since 2012. She reminded the press, however, that "the first case of MERS in the US represents a very low risk to the public."

There has been an increase in the number of cases in the Middle East since March 2014, and scientists do not yet know the cause. More than 100 people have died of the disease since 2012, the Associated Press reports. The virus was first found in camels, but scientists have been unable to identify how it spread to humans. The CDC said today that it does not know if the patient in Indiana came into contact with camels during their time in the Middle East.