The first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus infection (MERS-CoV) has occurred in the in the United States, according to a May 2nd announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The unnamed patient traveled by plane from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to London, England on April 24, then continued from London to Chicago, according to the CDC. The patient then took a bus from Chicago to Indiana and on April 27th began to experience respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, coughing, and fever. On April 28th, the patient was admitted to an undisclosed hospital in Indiana.

According to the CDC, the patient is isolated and is currently in stable condition. Because of the patient’s symptoms and travel history, Indiana public health officials tested for MERS-CoV. The Indiana state public health laboratory and CDC confirmed MERS-CoV infection in the patient this afternoon.

“We’ve anticipated MERS reaching the US, and we’ve prepared for and are taking swift action,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH.  “We’re doing everything possible with hospital, local, and state health officials to find people who may have had contact with this person so they can be evaluated as appropriate. This case reminds us that we are all connected by the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.  We can break the chain of transmission in this case through focused efforts here and abroad.”

CDC and Indiana health officials are not yet sure how the patient became infected with the virus.  Exposure may have occurred in Saudi Arabia, where outbreaks of MERS-CoV infection are occurring, the CDC announcement said. Officials also do not know exactly how many people have had close contact with the patient.

Federal, state, and local health officials are taking action to minimize the risk of spread of the virus, the CDC said. The undisclosed hospital in Indiana is using full precautions to avoid exposure within the hospital and among healthcare professionals and other people interacting with the patient, as recommended by CDC.

“It is understandable that some may be concerned about this situation, but this first US case of MERS-CoV 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.

Including this case, there have been 401 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection in 12 countries, according to the CDC. To date, 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; 93 people died.

Officials do not know where the virus came from or exactly how it spreads. There is no available vaccine or specific treatment recommended for the virus.

CDC advises Americans to help protect themselves from respiratory illnesses by washing hands often, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoid touching their eyes, nose and/or mouth with unwashed hands, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

More information about MERS Co-V is available at the CDC’s website.