MERS-CoV, short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, is a type of coronavirus.
Since the first documented cases in spring 2012, MERS has sickened at least 339 people in Saudi Arabia alone and killed nearly a third of them, according to the country's Ministry of Health.
As of April 16, 2014, the World Health Organisation has recorded 238 cases of the disease and 92 deaths globally.
The patient is a 27-year-old man who has been living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for the past four years. The patient had contact with a previously laboratory-confirmed case (his uncle) who died on April 19, and another laboratory-confirmed case (neighbour of his uncle) who is still under treatment in a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The patient became ill on April 22, returned to Egypt on April 25 and was laboratory-confirmed with MERS-CoV on April 26.
This "Indiana" patient flew to Chicago from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, via London, then took a bus to northwest Indiana. He fell ill on April 27 and was hospitalized the next day. The patient is currently in a stable condition.
Researchers at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, King Saud University, and EcoHealth Alliance extracted a live, infectious sample of MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) from two camels in Saudi Arabia. They found that this sample matched the virus found in humans on a genetic level.
As the New York Times has pointed,
The virus is thought to have originated in bats, but it is also widespread in camels. While it has not spread easily between humans, there have been outbreaks within families and in hospitals, where patients have infected paramedics, nurses and doctors.
Travelers to the Middle East have been warned to stay away from farm animals, and camels in particular. Camels are raised for meat and milk, for racing, and to haul goods. So-called beauty camels are kept as pets and entered in beauty contests.
Experts suspect that raw camel milk and meat transmit the virus.