The largest cluster of confirmed MERS cases came from five confirmed patients who had come in contact with people in Minnesota during a presidential campaign event by Republican Mike Pence, states records show.
There are 12 further confirmed cases in the Minnesota area. Eight of them were confirmed during a recent campaign visit to campaign rally for President Trump by Vice President Mike Pence, according to records kept by the state.
The remaining cases came from patients who contracted the virus after being associated with 25 campaign events over the last two months in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Delaware, South Carolina, South Dakota, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Iowa, Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, South Dakota, Georgia, California, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maryland, Missouri, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, West Virginia, Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New York, Florida, Tennessee, Connecticut, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Maryland.
“Given a high awareness of candidate activities in Minnesota during the current election cycle, the Minnesota Department of Health, along with our partners in other states and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been monitoring for cases of MERS,” the state said in a statement.
“Because Minnesota and several other states in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest appear to be connected, CDC is coordinating our investigation. To date, we have determined that there is no risk of a broader outbreak in these areas. We urge people to continue to follow health department recommendations to reduce the risk of MERS.”
State health officials are now on the lookout for other cases from the campaign stops.
The first confirmed case occurred in Indiana when a man from New York came in contact with an Indiana resident. The man passed the virus on to the Indiana resident, who in turn passed it on to another Indiana man, who then passed it on to five others in Minnesota.
The Minnesota cases “continue to be the focus of the CDC investigation,” a spokeswoman said.
“Minnesota does not have an active outbreak in the community, and the public continues to be reassured that there is no ongoing threat to the community from this disease,” the spokeswoman said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed the spread of the disease in Minnesota.
“Two cases diagnosed with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome were diagnosed in a Minnesota resident that had been returning from a trip to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The traveler developed a fever and had other indicators of MERS infection, including cough and shortness of breath. An ongoing investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health led to this confirmed case and associated cases in Minnesota. One person in the United States, an individual whose illness was acquired in Minnesota, was diagnosed with MERS as well. Based on health surveillance, the Minnesota Department of Health and CDC were able to connect these individuals,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said.
A CDC report shows the number of cases in the U.S. has climbed to 25, including 15 related to Pence’s campaign stops in Ohio and Wisconsin, two states Mr. Trump was visiting recently.
The Iowa Republican Party defended the Minnesota campaign events as perfectly safe.
“If people are concerned about it, I think they should go to the proper doctors or run themselves for crazy looks,” chairwoman Kirsten Anderson said.
Dr. Karin Hulshof, a deputy director of the state Health Department, said: “Anytime you come into contact with someone with a respiratory illness, it’s important to get medical attention immediately. This includes coughing and sneezing, and hand-washing, especially after contact with animals or patients. After that, people can get a shot to help protect themselves from MERS and related illness.”