The Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana held a press conference today (5/5/2014) regarding the MERS patient. This hospital is in northwest Indiana near Chicago, Illinois. Speakers included Mike Pence, Governor of the State of Indiana; William VanNess II, MD, Indiana State Health Commissioner; Daniel Feikin, MD, Medical Epidemiologist with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Don Fesko, CEO of Community Hospital; and Alan Kumar, Chief Medical Information Officer at Community Hospital. During the discussion, several facts about the case emerged:
- The patient lives and works in Saudia Arabia and is in the United States for a planned family visit.
- Patient doesn’t remember working directly with a MERS patient but does work at a facility that houses MERS patients.
- The patient presented to Community Hospital on the evening of 4/28 with flu-like symptoms. He has been in private triage, examination, and patient rooms for the duration of his visit.
- Infectious Disease doctors consulted on the case; quickly suspected MERS based on travel history and notified the CDC.
- Healthcare workers that came in contact with the patient are currently on home isolation. They will most likely be kept on isolation for 14 days, which is currently the longest known incubation period for the MERS virus.
- Currently, all evidence about MERS-CoV suggests that direct, sustained contact and exposure to droplets (from a cough or sneeze, for example) is necessary for transmission. NO evidence currently suggests that MERS can be transmitted through casual community contact.
- The current mortality rate for MERS is 30%; most patients who succumb to the virus are elderly, have concomitant health conditions, or both.
- The virus could mutate, and if it does there is a possibility that it could become more transmissible. However, there is NO EVIDENCE that has occurred.
- The CDC is working to identify people who traveled on the same plane and bus as the patient. So far, three-quarters of travelers have been contacted and identified.
- The patient is in good condition and is expected to go home soon.
- Discharge instructions, including how long the patient will be in isolation, are still being determined.
If a suspected case comes to your facility and your laboratory needs to handle specimens, contact your local health department for instructions. Also, bookmark Lab Medicine’s resource page for up-to-date information.