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Illinois resident infected with MERS tests negative for ability to spread virus

Updated: May 19, 2014 10:10PM

The Illinois resident who previously tested positive for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, antibodies in his blood, has since tested negative for his ability to spread the virus, Illinois officials said Monday.

Health officials first tested the individual, who has not been named, using oral and nasal swabs for active MERS-CoV infection on May 5. Those test results were negative. On May 16, a blood test result was positive for the Illinois resident, showing that he had antibodies to MERS-CoV. But over the weekend, he was again tested using oral and nasal swabs, and those have come back negative.

“The second round of test results from oral and nasal swabs show the Illinois resident is not infectious,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck in a statement. “What this means is, although the resident was infected at one time, if he sneezes or coughs, the virus is not in his nose or mouth and therefore cannot be spread to others. The risk of MERS-CoV to the general public remains very low.”

Dr. Jennifer Layden, an infectious disease specialist at Loyola University Health System, said it is not clear whether the man’s body recognized the infection and mounted an appropriate immune system to fight the virus or if the amount of exposure wasn’t enough to actually cause an active disease. Layden has no involvement in the CDC’s investigation of the disease.

Hasbrouck said the department will do additional blood testing of the Illinois man, who had contact with the nation’s first MERS case, an Indiana man who contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia.

The Illinois man, who is a U.S. citizen and works in Saudi Arabia, had two business meetings with the Indiana patient shortly before the Indiana patient was identified as having MERS. The Illinois man never fell ill and “is reported to be feeling well,” the Centers for Disease Control said in a release on Saturday.

Health officials said family members who had contact with the Illinois resident have all tested negative but will continue to be monitored.

Illinois residents and medical professionals who have concerns or questions can call the MERS-CoV hotline at 1-844 565-0256.

Twitter: @MonifaThomas1

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