Illinois Man is Third U.S. MERS Infection, CDC Says

A business associate of the man who brought the first case of a mysterious Middle East virus to the U.S. has also tested positive for the disease, though he showed no signs of illness, federal health officials said Saturday.

The new infection — the third reported in the U.S. and the first transmitted on American soil — is in an Illinois man who met and shook hands with a health care worker who was hospitalized in Indiana after traveling from Saudi Arabia and was diagnosed May 2 with MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome.

The Illinois man had not traveled outside of the U.S. recently and he did not seek or require medical care, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in announcing the new infection Saturday. Instead, laboratory tests showed that the man had evidence of an apparent past infection in his blood. He continues to feel well, CDC officials said.

“This latest development does not change CDC’s current recommendations to prevent the spread of MERS,” said Dr. David Swerdlow, who is leading the agency’s response to the infection that has sickened more than 570 people and killed 172, mostly in Saudi Arabia. It is formally known as the MERS coronavirus, or MERS-CoV.

“It’s possible that as the investigation continues others may also test positive for the MERS-CoV infection but not get sick,” Swerdlow added in a statement.

Although he has evidence of past infection, the Illinois man is not considered an official MERS case under World Health Organization and CDC defintions, Swerdlow said.

The new infection was detected as part of efforts by CDC and state health departments to contact everyone connected with the Indiana man and a Florida man who was the second in the U.S. diagnosed with MERS May 11.

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Eric Write head editor and chief at The Pluto Daily