Deadly MERS virus comes to America

The U.S.’s first case of the MERS virus has been detected in Indiana, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday.

The patient is a healthcare worker who returned to the US from Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, on April 24. Along the way, the person passed through London and Chicago before taking a bus to Indiana. The patient first showed symptoms on April 27 and was hospitalized the next day, according to the CDC.

The health agency refused to provide any additional information, declining to disclose gender, age, or location a more specific of the patient, according to NBC News.

MERS, short for Middle East respiratory syndrome, is a recently identified illness tied to the MERS coronavirus. Symptoms of MERS include severe pneumonia and kidney failure, which is fatal in about one-third of observed cases. As its name suggests, it first emerged in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and has since appeared across the Middle East, Europe and Asia, with more than 100 reported deaths in Saudi Arabia alone.  

According to the World Health Organization, the exact means by which humans are infected is unknown, though camels are suspected as a primary source of the virus. Person-to-person infection is possible as well.

No vaccine or cure exists yet for MERS, which has been compared to SARS, a similar disease that infected over 8,000 people and killed over 700 from 2002–2003, mostly in China.

Thus far, patients have tended to be sick, elderly, or have compromised immune systems. Some individuals have contracted the virus and failed to show any symptoms at all.

U.S. officials had been bracing for the disease’s arrival for some time. The number of cases has increased in the spring, and global travel networks mean an infected individual can be just a plane ride away.