The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has confirmed the first case of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Virus, or MERS, within the United States.
CDC officials Friday said an American health care worker who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia has been hospitalized with the virus in the midwestern state of Indiana. They say the patient has been isolated and is in stable condition.
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases director Anne Schuchat said the case is rapidly evolving, and that the CDC is working to identify people who may have been in contact with the patient. Schuchat said the patient traveled from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 24 to London, and then on to Indiana.
The MERS virus first appeared in September 2012, and all of the cases have been linked to six countries in the Arabian peninsula. Saudi Arabia has seen the most cases.
Schuchat said around 400 people have tested positive for the disease since it first appeared, and that about one-third of those people have died from the virus.
MERS is a member of the coronavirus family, which includes germs that cause the common cold, as well as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.
SARS popped up in southern China in 2003, infected about 8,000 people in 29 countries and killed about 800 before it was contained.
A spike in MERS cases in Saudi Arabia that began last week has raised worries among health experts that the virus has mutated into a more spreadable form. Schuchat said the reason for the increase is not yet known.
It is not yet clear where MERS came from originally, but camels are the lead suspects.