WASHINGTON, May 2 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday that a traveler from the Middle East has become the first American infected with the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus.
The patient, now isolated in an Indiana hospital after being diagnosed with the MERS virus, is "in stable condition" and "is being well cared for," the CDC said.
According to the U.S. agency, the patient returned from Saudi Arabia to Chicago, a city in the state of Illinois, through London by plane, and then traveled to Indiana by bus on April 24.
Last Sunday, the patient began to experience respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, coughing, and fever, and went to see doctors the next day and was then admitted to hospital.
The traveler was confirmed infection with the MERS virus Friday afternoon, the CDC said.
"It is understandable that some may be concerned about this situation, but this first U.S. case of MERS-CoV (coronavirus) infection represents a very low risk to the general public," said Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, in a statement.
U.S. health officials said they are not yet sure how the patient became infected with the MERS virus and also do not know exactly how many people have had close contact with the patient.
They suspected that exposure may have occurred in Saudi Arabia, where outbreaks of MERS virus infection are occurring.
The MERS virus is relatively new to humans and was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
So far, including this U.S. importation, there have been more than 400 confirmed cases of MERS infection in 12 countries with more than 100 deaths, and all reported cases have originated in six countries in the Arabian Peninsula.
Most of these people developed severe acute respiratory illness, with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Doctors do not know where the virus comes from or exactly how it spreads. There is no available vaccine or specific treatment recommended for the virus.