HEALTH

MERS contracted by businessman in the U.S.

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(WJLA) - A third confirmed case of MERS has popped up in the U.S.

The scary thing about this one? The victim appears to have contracted the disease here, on U.S. soil.

According to ABC News, federal health officials said an Illinois businessman tested positive for MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, after coming into contact with MERS patient number one - an Indiana man flying back from Saudi Arabia.

Health workers said the two men were seated within feet of each other at a business meeting, had face-to-face contact and shook hands.

Experts say it's a frightening new turn in the investigation into the spread of the disease.

"The person who got the infection only spent 40 minutes with the infected patient," said ABC News chief health and medical editor, Richard Besser. "Forty minutes face-to-face and a handshake - that's very concerning."

Now, public health departments in at least 30 states are watching anyone who had close contact with both men, along with patient number one - a traveler from Saudi Arabia who was diagnosed and hospitalized in Orlando, Fla. about one week ago.

Officials said when the Illinois businessman was first tested, the results came back negative - but another round of tests showed his body fought off the potentially deadly virus.

Health workers say it is still easier to catch the flu or a common cold - but if not detected, MERS can be deadly, killing more than 160 people worldwide so far.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told ABC News the big concern now is, what they don't know.

"Until they answer the question, can this person without any symptoms spread it to other people - how serious, really, is this infection?" Besser added.

Health officials are also concerned about more cases coming here to the U.S., with the holiday pilgrimage to the Middle East and summer travel heating up.

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