Indiana MERS patient on the road to recovery

MUNSTER The Indiana patient being treated for MERS is on the road to recovery, health officials said.

There are less than 300 confirmed cases of MERS -- or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome -- in the world.

The patient being treated at Community Hospital in Munster is the first case in the United States.

The man lives in Saudia Arabia where he is a health care worker at a hospital with confirmed MERS cases.

On April 24, the patient traveled by plane from Saudi Arabia to London, England, and then from London to Chicago, Illinois. He took a bus to Indiana.

"We're not surprised that MERS Co-V has come to the United States," said Dr. Daniel Feikin of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a press conference Monday. "We know that infectious diseases do not respect international boundaries."

The traveler was visiting relatives in Munster when he displayed symptoms of the virus.

On April 28, he arrived at the Munster hospital's emergency room complaining of shortness of breath, cough and a fever.

While the virus is fatal to about one-third of those who contract it, Community Hospital's Chief Medical Information Officer, Dr. Alan Kumar, said the patient is improving.

"Specifically about the patient, he has been improving everyday as was mentioned, he no longer has any oxygen requirements," Dr. Kumar said. "He's in good spirits, he's eating well, and we have started the discharge planning process at this point. We expect him to be going home soon."

There have been no new cases of MERS since the patient arrived to the U.S. two weeks ago, but Community Hospital in Munster says that those people that came in contact with the patient are being closely monitored.

The virus has an incubation period of up to 14 days, so additional tests will be conducted.

About 100 people were on the man's flight to Chicago and another 10 people rode the bus from O'Hare Airport to Indiana.

None of the passengers who traveled with the man have shown any symptoms in connection with the virus. The same goes for hospital workers who initially treated the man.

His family has been placed on home isolation, and so will the patient once he is discharged.

St. Joseph County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Felger says the Munster case does not pose a high threat to county and its surrounding area.

"It just doesn't spread like the flu at all," Dr. Felger said. "It's very close contact required with the sick individual -- the people most at risk are healthcare workers because they have close contact. Even though this is a problem for the people where it happened it's not really a problem for South Bend or the county at this point."

Dr. Felger credited the medical team in Munster for making a quick diagnosis of a very rare virus.

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