News / USA

First US MERS Patient Improving, Gets Ready to Leave Hospital

The exterior of Community Hospital, where a patient with the first confirmed U.S. case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is in isolation, is seen in Munster, Indiana, May 5, 2014.
The exterior of Community Hospital, where a patient with the first confirmed U.S. case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is in isolation, is seen in Munster, Indiana, May 5, 2014.
Reuters
The first U.S. patient to test positive for the often deadly MERS virus is off supplemental oxygen and walking around his hospital room in Munster, Indiana, as health officials begin planning the man's release, state and federal authorities said on Monday.
 
Up to 50 hospital workers, as well as family members and close contacts of the patient who were monitored for signs of the virus have tested negative for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
 
“Every person who had contact with the index [infected] patient has been tested, and they all have tested negative,” Dr Alan Kumar, chief medical information officer of Community Hospital in Munster, where the patient is being treated, told a news conference on Monday.
 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Friday that it had identified the first MERS case in the country, raising new concerns about the global spread of an illness with a high fatality rate and no known treatment.
 
The patient is a healthcare worker employed in Saudi Arabia, where the virus was first detected in 2012, who had come to Indiana to visit family. Saudi officials on Monday said the toll from a recent outbreak was still rising, with 18 new cases in the capital city of Riyadh, where the U.S. patient works.
 
All of the Indiana hospital employees and the patient's family members will be retested at the end of a 14-day incubation period for final confirmation they are free from MERS.
 
“We're being very vigilant to follow these contacts and continue to do testing on them,” said Dr Daniel Feikin, a medical epidemiologist from the CDC. Feikin is overseeing the patient's care and helping track down anyone who might have had contact with him during his journey to the United States.
 
Since the virus first emerged, as many as 414 people have been infected with MERS, and more than a quarter have died, according to the Saudi health ministry.
 
According to Feikin, the Riyadh hospital where the Indiana patient works is treating MERS patients, but he was not aware of being exposed to anyone with the virus.
 
So far, the CDC has contacted three-fourths of the people who were in close contact with the MERS patient as he flew from Riyadh to London, and then to Chicago, before boarding a bus to Indiana. That list includes about 100 airline travelers and some 10 bus passengers.
 
In the Shadow of SARS
 
The outbreak of an entirely new virus is worrisome because it is a coronavirus, a family of viruses that includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS, which emerged in China in 2002-2003 and killed some 800 people.
 
During the SARS epidemic, a traveler from Hong Kong to Toronto caused an outbreak among hospital personnel that ultimately infected 257 individuals and killed 33 people.
 
When the patient in Indiana showed up with flu-like symptoms, including a fever, cough and shortness of breath, the hospital staff quickly moved him to one of its emergency department isolation rooms to prevent the spread of infection.
 
“The patient was always in a private room,” Kumar told reporters at the briefing.
 
In an interview, he said the hospital used video surveillance cameras and information from RFID tracking tags - worn routinely by hospital personnel - to identify the healthcare workers who came in contact with the patient before he was placed in the isolation room.
 
That RFID technology, which is used to track employee movements and make sure they respond quickly to patients, allowed the hospital to record how much contact each employee had with the patient down to the minute.
 
Kumar said that data is giving the CDC unprecedented ability to study how much exposure to an infected individual it takes before the virus can be transmitted.
 
In the SARS outbreak, for example, Kumar said that exposure time was about 10 minutes before a person was at risk.
 
So far, there have only been about 10 cases in which a traveler has developed MERS outside of the Arabian peninsula, but Feikin said it is possible that another case could turn up in the United States.
 
“If this virus continues to infect people in the Middle East, it would not be surprising to have an importation at some point somewhere,” he said.
 
Meanwhile, the presence of the virus in a patient in the United States affords the CDC the opportunity to study it and work on treatments.
 
Scientists are not yet sure how the MERS virus is transmitted to people, but it has been found in bats and camels, and many experts say camels are the most likely animal reservoir from which humans become infected.
 
“Obviously, this is our first chance to get an up close and personal look at this virus,” Feiken said in an interview.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid