The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus is seen in an undated transmission electron micrograph from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Credit: Reuters
U.S. health officials said on Monday a second case of MERS, a deadly virus first discovered in the Middle East in 2012, has been found in the state of Florida.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the presence of the virus, known formally as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, with health officials from Florida.
The CDC said in a statement it was the second "imported" instance of MERS, meaning a traveler contracted the virus in another country and brought it to U.S. shores. The first such imported case involved a man who flew from Saudi Arabia and traveled to Indiana earlier this month.
The patient in that case, a U.S. healthcare worker who lives and works in Saudi Arabia, flew from Riyadh to London and then Chicago, before boarding a bus to Highland, Indiana. He then began experiencing symptoms of fever, shortness of breath, and sought care at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana.
After confirming the patient had MERS, the CDC and state and hospital officials traced all of the workers with whom he had contact, and all have so far tested negative for the virus.
The CDC has also checked airline and bus manifests to see if the man might have infected others during his journey and so far have not turned up any evidence that fellow travelers were infected.
The patient is now clear of the virus and was released on Friday. Hospital workers remain in home isolation until the end of a 14-day incubation period, when they will be rechecked for the virus.
Although the MERS virus has been shown to transmit from person to person and to healthcare workers, it is not easily transmissible to the general public.
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.
Scientists around the world have been searching for the animal source, or reservoir, of MERS virus infections ever since the first human cases were confirmed in September 2012.
In humans, MERS causes coughing, fever and pneumonia.