(Adds details on Florida MERS case)
By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO May 19 An Illinois man who had tested
positive for antibodies to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
virus in his blood is no longer infectious, state health
officials said on Monday.
The case in Illinois was the first direct transmission of
the MERS virus on U.S. soil. The two prior cases earlier in the
month were both "imported" cases of MERS, brought to the United
States by infected travelers from the Middle East, the epicenter
of the MERS outbreak.
Florida officials said separately the second patient
infected with MERS has now been released from the hospital in
Since it was first identified in 2012, MERS has infected
more than 500 patients in Saudi Arabia alone. It kills about 30
percent of the people it infects. The virus causes fever, body
aches, cough and sometimes deadly pneumonia.
How MERS is transmitted from person to person is not well
understood, but most cases have occurred through close physical
contact with an infected person or animal, such as a camel,
which is thought to be a reservoir for the virus.
In the case of the Illinois man, U.S. health officials
relied on blood tests for signs that he had been infected. The
tests showed his immune system had fought off a MERS infection.
The man, who had mild, cold-like symptoms, had two business
meetings with the first MERS patient to reach U.S. soil before
he sought treatment at a hospital in Munster, Indiana.
The man did not test positive for active infection through
sensitive tests of samples from his respiratory tract.
Illinois health officials say a second round of test results
from oral and nasal swabs show the Illinois man "is not
infectious," Dr LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois
Department of Public Health, said in a statement.
"What this means is, although the resident was infected at
one time, if he sneezes or coughs, the virus is not in his nose
or mouth and therefore cannot be spread to others," Hasbrouck
Health officials will continue to follow up with the
Illinois man and anyone with whom he had close contact. So far,
family members who had close contact with the Illinois resident
have all tested negative, but will continue to be monitored.
In Florida, the Orlando hospital treating the second U.S.
MERS patient said he was discharged on Sunday evening.
The state health department said the man's family members
and all 20 hospital workers and doctors who were exposed to him
have tested negative for the virus. Hospital workers may be
cleared to return to work as early as this week.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Additional reporting by
Barbara Liston in Orlando; editing by G Crosse and Nick