May 6 (Bloomberg) -- The first U.S. case of a potentially lethal virus from the Arabian peninsula sparked a call from Democrats for congressional hearings on the threat it may pose to the country.

Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, and colleagues sent a letter to Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee requesting a hearing on “federal initiatives to protect Americans from global health threats,” citing the case of a man in Indiana. The patient was diagnosed with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, on April 28 after returning April 24 from a trip to Saudi Arabia.

“This is the latest example of how, in our increasingly global community, infectious diseases can spread to the United States,” Waxman and his colleagues wrote.

The coronavirus, first identified in Saudi Arabia two years ago, has caused 401 cases of illness and 93 deaths in 12 countries as of yesterday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Indiana patient, whom authorities have declined to identify, is in isolation at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana and was reported yesterday to be improving.

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