(Photo : Reuters) Health officials have reported an Illinois man is the third person to test positive for the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.
The man, however, has yet to show signs of illness, according to federal health officials.
The man exhibited evidence of infection after meeting twice with a doctor who brought the first case of MERS virus to the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He and the doctor met on April 25, sitting face to face about six feet apart, and then had another meeting on April 26, according to CDC. The two men shook hands during the meetings.
The doctor, a U.S. citizen, was hospitalized in Indiana after traveling from Saudi Arabia and was diagnosed with MERS virus on May 2, CDC said.
He had developed a fever and other early symptoms of MERS.
The Illinois man, who had not traveled outside of the U.S. prior to getting the virus, was the first case of person-to-person transmission of the MERS virus in the country.
“This latest development does not change CDC’s current recommendations to prevent the spread of MERS,” said Dr. David Swerdlow, who heads the CDC’s response to MERS.
He continued, saying, “It’s possible that as the investigation continues others may also test positive for MERS-CoV infection but not get sick. Along with state and local health experts, CDC will investigate those initial cases and if new information is learned that requires us to change our prevention recommendations, we can do so.”
There have been 572 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS in 15 countries, especially in the Middle East, according to the CDC.
Of the total number, 173 people have died because of the virus.
Health experts said there is not much information about the disease, even though the first cases were reported more than two years ago.
“We don’t understand a lot about how this virus is transmitted,” Swerdlow said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Public health officials have previously believed that MERS spreads from one person to another through close contact, such as living or caring for an infected person.
However, the confirmed case of the man from Illinois suggests that the disease can also be caught through more casual encounters.