MERS virus patient improving, still isolated at Community Hospital in Munster

A man remains hospitalized in good condition with the nation's first confirmed case of MERS at Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. (WLS)
May 14, 2014 4:28:37 AM PDT
A man remains hospitalized in good condition in Indiana with the nation's first confirmed case of MERS.

Federal and state health officials, as well as Indiana Governor Mike Pence, gathered in Munster Monday morning to discuss their response to the illness. They said the patient is in good condition and is improving every day. So far, everyone who has come in contact with him has tested negative for MERS. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed it as the first case of MERS in the United States on Friday.

"At this point, it appears that MERS picked the wrong hospital, the wrong state, and the wrong country to try to get a foothold," said Dr. William Van Ness, Indiana State Health Commissioner.

The patient began showing respiratory symptoms and was brought to the hospital April 28.

"In an abundance of caution, the exposed family members and health care workers have been monitored daily to watch for the development of any signs or symptoms of MERS," said Don Fesko, Community Hospital.

"Because MERS is relatively new virus and we're still learning much about it, we're being very vigilant to follow these contact out to 14 days after their last exposure," said Dr. Daniel Feikin, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. It is in the same group of viruses as SARS and the common cold, but 30% of those who have gotten MERS died. The first cases of MERS appeared in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012.

"Infectious diseases do not respect international boundaries. In this day and age of global travel and trade, infectious disease can spread almost anywhere," said Dr. Feikin.

The Chief Medical Information Officer at the Hospital says the Munster patient is improving and will be released soon.

"He did require some oxygen during the initial part of his stay but he is now back on room air with a good appetite, doing well," said Dr. Alan Kumar, Community Hospital.

The hospital used video surveillance and new technology to identify staff who may be at risk. Each employee wears a radio frequency ID tracer tag.

"We can tell down to the second how long they were in contact with the patient, and how long they were in the room, and provide data to CDC," said Dr. Kumar.

The patient is a health care provider who works at a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He tells the CDC that while there had been MERS cases at the hospital where he worked, he did not treat any of them personally. He is expected to be released in a few days and eventually return to Saudi Arabia.

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