Health Department to provide MERS patient update

MUNSTER, Ind. (WISH) – On Monday, state and national health officials will update the public on the status of the first known MERS patient in the United States.

MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome because all cases can be traced to the Middle East.

The Centers for Disease Control say there is no cure or treatment for the virus, and about one in four who have the virus have died.

The man infected is isolated in good condition at Community Hospital in Munster, according to hospital officials.  On April 24, they say, he flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to London, then Chicago, where he took a bus to Indiana. His diagnosis came on April 28, after he went to the hospital with a fever, cough and shortness of breath.

“The treatment for these patients is symptomatic and physiologic: we take care of them, we watch their breathing, we monitor their fluids, their urine and the like. But at the moment, there is no specific antiviral drug we have available to treat these patients,” Dr. Shaffner, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Vanderbilt Medical Center, said.

The CDC says there is no significant risk to the public, but experts are concerned about hospital staff who had direct contact with him. “In the community setting, MERS is not highly transmissible, however, there is concern that when the patient is receiving healthcare, there is risk to the healthcare workers,” Dr. Shaffner said.

Those staffers are now in home isolation being watched for symptoms. The CDC says they can return to work after the 14-day incubation period ends and lab tests are negative.

The patient traveled through several international airports before arriving in Indiana.

The CDC says it’s working to make sure anyone he traveled with is watching for symptoms, that includes everyone on board his flight that landed in Chicago.
Monday’s press conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Community Hospital in Munster. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will attend along with representatives from the Indiana State Department of Health, the CDC and Community Hospital.

 

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