Illinois man tests positive for MERS as more deaths noted in Saudi Arabia

US patient sickened after contact with known MERS sufferer

Federal health officials said Saturday that an Illinois man has tested positive for the mysterious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) after having contact with a patient in Indiana believed to have been the first to be diagnosed with the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said tests completed Friday showed the Illinois man had probably become infected with the virus after having close contact twice with the known MERS sufferer, but added that he had not sought or required medical care and was said to be feeling well.  

A second U.S. case was confirmed last week in Florida, where a man who had visited Saudi Arabia was being treated. Most cases of MERS have occurred in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Saudi Arabia reported three more fatalities from the virus on Saturday, taking the death toll in the country to 163.

The health ministry website also revealed on Saturday that 520 cases have been recorded in the country since MERS first appeared in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It said three women died on Friday, including one in Riyadh and a 67-year-old in the western city of Taif.

A third woman died in Jeddah, the port city where a spate of cases among staff at King Fahd Hospital last month sparked public panic and the dismissal of its director and the health minister.

Other nations including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates have also recorded cases, mostly in people who had been to the desert kingdom.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said its emergency committee, which includes global medical and policy experts, had flagged mounting concerns about the potentially fatal virus.

The international body called on countries to improve infection prevention and control. WHO also appealed for more data on MERS and for vigilance in preventing it from spreading to vulnerable countries, notably in Africa.

But it has so far stopped short of declaring an international health emergency, which would have far-reaching implications such as travel and trade restrictions on affected countries.

Wire services 

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Saudi Arabia
Disease, MERS

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