More definitive test shows Illinois man didn’t have MERS

The Illinois man who was previously thought to have tested positive for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, in his antibodies was not actually infected with the virus, the CDC said Wednesday.

The Illinois man, who is a U.S. citizen and works in Saudi Arabia, had two business meetings with the Indiana patient who was the first in the U.S. to be diagnosed with MERS, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting. And on May 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the Illinois resident appeared to be positive for MERS-CoV antibodies. Neither man was identified.

The initial testing “indicated the possibility that the Illinois resident had been previously infected with MERS-CoV,” said Dr. David Swerdlow, who is leading CDC’s MERS-CoV response.

But additional and more definitive laboratory tests concluded that the Illinois man “was not previously infected with MERS-CoV,” the CDC said in a statement released Wednesday.

The CDC did not respond immediately for more clarification.

“While we never want to cause undue concern among those who have had contact with a MERS patient, it is our job to move quickly when there is a potential public health threat,” said Swerdlow in the statement. “Because there is still much we don’t know about this virus, we will continue to err on the side of caution when responding to and investigating cases of MERS in this country.”

MERS is viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, CDC said. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About 30 percent of people confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection have died.

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