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A man hospitalized in Indiana with the first U.S. case of the deadly MERS virus is steadily improving and is expected to be discharged from the hospital soon, health care officials said Monday.

The patient, a male health care worker who was living and working in Saudi Arabia, appears to be getting better, hospital officials said. He is no longer dependent on oxygen and has been eating and walking around, according to Alan Kumar, chief medical information officer of Community Hospital in Munster, Ind., where the patient has been since April 28.

MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused more than 800 deaths globally in 2003.

The incubation period for MERS-CoV is two to 14 days, with most patients getting sick within five days of exposure. All of the people who came into close contact with the patient – including family members he was visiting and roughly 50 health care workers – have been told to stay home and be tested for the virus. None showed evidence of exposure, but they will be retested at the end of the 14 days, officials said at a midday news conference.

He has been in a private room since walking into the hospital's emergency room on the 28th complaining of fever and trouble breathing, so no other patients are believed to have been exposed. Once it became clear that the man might have MERS, health care workers donned masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns, Kumar said.

Indiana's Gov. Mike Pence, and officials from the state health department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention praised the way the hospital handled the patient's care and minimizing his exposure to other patients.

"At this point, it appears MERS picked the wrong hospital, the wrong state, the wrong country to try to get a foothold," Indiana State Health Commissioner William VanNess II said.

The man was apparently exposed when working at a hospital in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. He did not report working directly with any patients who had the virus, but it was present in the hospital, said Daniel Feikin, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC. Officials would release no more information about the man, in order to protect his privacy.

The disease is believed to spread through respiratory droplets, such as from coughs or sneezes, Feikin said.

"If this were a disease that were highly transmissible – something like measles – once it got into the community, it would spread rapidly," he said. "The fact that we've only seen cases among close contacts does reassure us that at this point the threat really is confined to those who have close contact with the patient."

Other people who may have had casual contact with him, such as while he was traveling to Indiana from Riyadh, via two planes and a bus, are not expected to be at risk. In an abundance of caution, the CDC has been notifying them and warning them to get checked immediately if they develop flu-like symptoms.

Kumar said he and health officials are beginning to make plans for the man's release, but that he is expected to remain at home with family members until there is no more chance of contagion.

Though the danger in Indiana appears to have been contained, Feikin said there is always a chance that other people will bring the MERS virus to the United States.

"If this virus continues to infect people in the Middle East, it would not be surprising that we would have another importation at some point somewhere," he said.

Any traveler who comes back from the Middle East and has flu-like symptoms or develops them within two weeks should call their health care provider, Feikin said. It is best to reach out by phone first to minimize exposure to patients and health care workers. Someone who feels the need to go directly to an emergency room should identify themselves immediately as having been to the Middle East and possibly exposed to MERS, he said.

Overall the CDC says about 400 people have been identified as coming down with the virus, though there are differing reports about whether all those cases have been confirmed as MERS. More than 100 have died.

No vaccine exists for the disease. Treatment consists of standard supportive care for a respiratory illness. Officials said people worried about MERS should wash their hands regularly, wipe down potentially infected surfaces with anti-bacterial agents and avoid others who are sick.

Since April 2012, countries with MERS-confirmed cases include France, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.

The CDC says the virus likely came from an animal source. In addition to humans, MERS-CoV has been found in camels in Qatar and a bat in Saudi Arabia.

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