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US reports first case of MERS coronavirus through human contact
May 18, 2014, 8:46 am

A health-care worker in Khobar, Saudi Arabia where the coronavirus was first detected in 2012 [Xinhua]

A health-care worker in Khobar, Saudi Arabia where the coronavirus was first detected in 2012 [Xinhua]

US medical authorities said on Saturday that they may have detected the first case of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) spread through human-to-human contact

A man in Illinois is believed to have met and shaken hands with a health care worker who had returned from Saudi Arabia to Indiana.

The health care worker later contracted MERS and was hospitalized in Munster, Indiana, but was released in late April.

The Illinois man is reportedly doing well and has not required treatment so far, the Center for Disease Control said on Saturday.

“We don’t think this changes the risk to the general public,” which remains low, CDC’s Dr. David Swerdlow told Reuters.

Another health care worker returning from Saudi Arabia was hospitalized in Orlando in early May but was treated and released last week.

Some airports in the US have set up signs which warn travelers to the “Arabian Peninsula” – which includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, and the UAE – to take precautionary steps.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, where the virus first emerged and is believed to have originated in camels, local medical authorities said five more people had died on Saturday.

This brings the death toll to 168 of a total 530 cases reported in Saudi Arabia alone.

Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) criticized Saudi medical authorities for not using enough infection prevention measures to curb the spread of the virus in medical facilities.

According to the WHO website, “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses; different members of this family cause illness in humans and animals. In humans, these illnesses range from the common cold to infection with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS CoV)”.

Some medical officials say MERS also can lead to rapid kidney failure.

In February, a Columbia University study published in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology has revealed that the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which was discovered in 2012, has also been found in camels of the Arabian Peninsula.

But further study is needed, the report says, to determine if and how the virus spread from camel to human, and if the animal is itself the source of the disease.

WHO had previously said that “cases have also been reported by three countries in Europe—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (UK)—and by Tunisia, in North Africa”.

“All the European and North African cases have had a direct or indirect connection to the Middle East,” WHO said at the time.

The US, Italy and Egypt are the latest to report the spread of the virus.

Last week, Saudi officials from the health and agriculture ministries called on people dealing with camels to wear masks and gloves in a bid to prevent the spread of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Source: Agencies