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MUNSTER | Discharge plans are underway for the man being treated at Community Hospital with the country's first case of Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome.

The syndrome, called MERS, is a viral respiratory illness.

First reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, about 30 percent of patients die from it. There is no vaccine or treatment protocol.

The man being treated at the Munster hospital is a health care worker in Saudi Arabia, where he lives. He was in Northwest Indiana visiting family when he began experiencing flu-like symptoms and went to the Community Hospital emergency department and later tested positive for MERS.

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A statement issued by the hospital Tuesday said the patient continues to improve and is in good condition.

"The hospital has begun working on discharge plans for the patient, who is expected to be released to home isolation in the coming days," the hospital said. "He will remain in home isolation until he is cleared by the Indiana State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as no longer an infectious risk to the public."

Employees who had direct contact with the patient remain off duty and in temporary home isolation. They are being monitored and will be tested again shortly after Sunday, which ends their incubation period, before being cleared to return to work, the hospital said. 

For questions about MERS, call the Indiana State Department of Health hotline at (877) 826-0011.

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