Officials confirm first MERS case in the U.S.

BY Sam Lane  May 2, 2014 at 6:19 PM EST
 NIAID MERS-CoV Particles Transmission electron micrograph of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus particles, colorized in yellow. Credit: NIAID

NIAID MERS-CoV Particles Transmission electron micrograph of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus particles, colorized in yellow. Credit: NIAID

U.S. health officials have identified the first American infected with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS.

According to the Associated Press, an Indiana man became sick and was hospitalized after returning to the U.S. a week ago from Saudi Arabia, where he works in health care.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — as well as Indiana health professionals — are investigating the case.

MERS belongs to the same virus family as the common cold and SARS. Around 400 people have contracted the illness in Saudi Arabia and more than 100 have died. The outbreak began there two years ago.

Al Jazeera also reports that officials in Saudia Arabia have joined the World Health Organization in advising older people, children, and those suffering long-term disease to delay their annual Islamic Haj pilgrimage, which is usually held in October, due to the virus.

MERS can spread from person to person, the AP reports, but officials say that happens only after close contact. And not everyone who is exposed to the virus gets sick.