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Associated Press
This file photo provided by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a colorized transmission of the MERS coronavirus that emerged in 2012.

First US case of the deadly MERS virus is found in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Friday that a Hoosier health care provider is the first person in the United States to contract the deadly MERS virus.

The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed the case was in northwest Indiana.

“There is a very low risk to the broader general public,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Diseases are just a plane ride away.”

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a virus called MERS-CoV.

Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection develop severe acute respiratory illness. They have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About 30 percent of these people died.

So far, all cases have been linked to six countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the disease and health officials still don’t know exactly where it came from or how it spreads.

“I want to assure every Hoosier that we have deployed the full resources of the Indiana State Department of Health to engage in tracking this case, assessing the risk to the public, and working to prevent the spread of this virus," said Gov. Mike Pence. "We are working in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and encourage those who may have been exposed to this virus to report any symptoms to their medical provider and take all necessary precautions. Further, I commend Community Hospital in Munster, their staff and physicians for their swift professionalism in diagnosing and addressing this case."

Schuchat said the person was providing health care in Saudi Arabia and left there on a plane to London and then to Chicago on April 24. The person then took a bus to Indiana.

On April 27th, the person began to experience shortness of breath, coughing and a fever and was admitted to Community Hospital in Munster on April 28. The patient is currently on oxygen and has been isolated in stable condition.

She said when the disease has been exported to other countries there has been a limited spread to those in the health care setting or family.

Schuchat said those who might have come in contact with the person on the bus or plane are being contacted. There are currently no other confirmed illnesses but an active investigation is ongoing.

“It’s too early to breathe a sigh of relief,” she said.

The incubation period is about five days between infection and symptoms.