A second U.S. case of a potentially lethal virus from the Arabian peninsula has been identified in Florida, federal health officials said.
The patient is a health-care worker who lives and works in Saudi Arabia, Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said today. The first case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, called MERS-CoV, was an Indiana health-care worker who returned from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 24, the CDC reported May 2. He is now recovered and was released from the hospital two days ago.
The CDC has sent staff to Saudi Arabia to work with the World Health Organization to seek more information about the virus, and is tracking more than 500 passengers on three flights the Florida patient took within the U.S.
“There is no way we can effectively protect Americans only by working within the U.S. borders,” Frieden said today during a telephone briefing on the newest case.
The coronavirus has caused 538 cases of illness in 12 countries and 145 deaths, including 112 deaths in Saudi Arabia, according to the CDC, citing the World Health Organization. The WHO’s emergency committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow to decide whether MERS should be declared a public health emergency of international concern.
The latest U.S. patient traveled to Florida from Saudi Arabia on May 1, and went to a hospital emergency department for treatment on May 8, Frieden said. Tests confirmed the MERS virus and the patient is isolated and doing well, he said.
Frieden and other health authorities on the call declined to identify the patient’s gender or age and said they didn’t know the person’s nationality. The patient traveled to Florida to visit family and began to feel ill during a flight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to London.
The patient then flew from London to Boston, and on to Atlanta before landing in Orlando.
“We would not be surprised to see additional cases,” Frieden said. “We’re not predicting that there will be.”
Frieden declined to identify the patient’s flights, saying the CDC had identified other passengers on the planes and would contact them directly.
The Indiana patient, a man who hasn’t been identified by federal or state authorities, was placed in isolation at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, after being admitted on April 28. The patient “is no longer symptomatic and poses no threat to the community,” said Alan Kumar, medical information officer for the Munster hospital.
As in Indiana, officials at the Florida hospital sent home workers who had contact with the patient before the person was placed in isolation. The person’s family has also been instructed to remain at home, Frieden said.
The virus causes respiratory distress, coughing and fever. Little is know about its origin, and there is no vaccine or cure.