May 9 (Reuters) - The first U.S. patient to test positive for the often deadly MERS virus was released from an Indiana hospital on Friday and is fully recovered, hospital officials said.
Multiple tests conducted at different times by the Indiana State Laboratory and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were negative for the presence of ongoing Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) infection in the patient, according to a statement from the Indiana State Department of Health.
"The patient has tested negative for MERS, is no longer symptomatic and poses no threat to the community," said Dr. Alan Kumar, chief medical information officer for Community Hospital in Munster. No additional cases have been found.
The CDC confirmed last week that it had identified the first MERS case in the country, raising new concerns about the global spread of an illness with a high fatality rate and no known treatment.
The patient is a healthcare worker employed in Saudi Arabia, where the virus was first detected in 2012, who had come to Indiana to visit family.
Saudi officials said on Friday that the number of infections in the country has reached 473. The death toll from the virus is 133 since it was identified two years ago, according to the kingdom's health ministry.
Indiana hospital staff who had direct contact with the patient continue to remain off-duty and in temporary home isolation and are being monitored for symptoms, the state health department said. They will be allowed to return to work following the incubation period and confirmed negative test results.
Scientists are not yet sure how the MERS virus is transmitted to people, but it has been found in bats and camels, and many experts say camels are the most likely animal reservoir from which humans become infected. (Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Ken Wills)