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MERS virus spread from human to human in US

NEW YORK — Health officials have reported what appears to be the first time that a mysterious Middle East virus has spread from one person to another in the United States.

An Illinois man probably picked up an infection from an Indiana man who earlier this month became the first US case of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS. The Illinois man, however, did not need medical treatment and is reported to be feeling well, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday.

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The two men met twice before the Indiana man fell ill and was hospitalized in Munster, Ind., shortly after traveling from Saudi Arabia, where he lived and was employed as a health care worker.

Health officials say they think the virus spread during a 40-minute business meeting that involved no more contact than a handshake.

‘‘We don’t think this changes the risk to the general public,’’ which remains low, said Dr. David Swerdlow of the CDC.

The new report also is not considered evidence that the virus is spreading more easily among people than previously thought, he said. The virus is not considered to be highly contagious, and health officials believe it only spreads from person to person with close contact. Many of those who have gotten sick in the Middle East have been family members or health care workers caring for a MERS patient.

The CDC said tests completed Friday provided evidence that the Illinois man had an infection at some point.

Since the first man’s diagnosis, health officials have been monitoring and testing anyone who was in close contact with him, including health care workers and household members, but none of the rest of them has tested positive for the virus.

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