Governor, health officials to provide MERS update Monday morning

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MUNSTER (May 5, 2014) – State and national health officials will provide an update Monday morning on the first known U.S. case of a rare and potentially deadly illness called MERS.

MERS—which stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome—first surfaced in Saudi Arabia in 2012. There are no treatments and no vaccine. It’s deadly in one in four cases, doctors say.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived in Munster, Ind., this weekend. A patient there is in good condition at Community Hospital and remains isolated. Hospital officials said he flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to London, England and then to Chicago on April 24. The patient took a bus from Chicago to Indiana. On Sunday, April 27, the patient began to experience shortness of breath, coughing and fever. He went to an emergency room the following day and was admitted to the hospital.

The Indiana Department of Health says the man is a U.S. citizen but worked in Saudi Arabia. He was in town for a health conference. Family members have been notified.

As of Sunday, no other cases of MERS have been identified in the U.S. Hospital staff members who had direct contact with the patient have been taken off duty and placed in home isolation. They’re being closely monitored for any symptoms and won’t be allowed to return to work until the incubation period ends and their lab results come back negative. MERS symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear.

The news conference Monday will include Gov. Mike Pence, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. William VanNess II and officials from the CDC and Community Hospital. It’s scheduled for 11:30 a.m.