ATLANTA, May 12 (UPI) -- The Florida Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta confirmed the second case of MERS in the United States -- a man working in Saudi Arabia visiting Orlando, Fla.
"The patient visited family and did not visit theme parks," Dr. John Armstrong, Florida state secretary of health, said during a joint telephone news conference with the CDC.
The Florida patient, just as the first U.S. MERS patient in Indiana, is a healthcare provider who lives and works Saudi Arabia. The second patient traveled by plane to Florida.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said the second patient -- whose identity has not been made public -- took a plane May 1 from Saudi Arabia to London then Boston to Atlanta and then Orlando, Fla. and entered the hospital last Thursday after feeling sick -- fever, chills and cough -- during the flight from Jeddah to London and subsequent flights. The patient is isolated in a Florida hospital.
"This second confirmed case of MERS in a person who worked in healthcare from an area of risk is not surprising," Frieden said during the news conference.
"To continue to strengthen our own health security, we need to increase our global ability to support other countries to help them find and stop threats such as MERS promptly, and to prevent them whenever possible."
CDC and Florida health officials said they did not know how the second patient became infected, but outbreaks of MERS are occurring in Saudi Arabia. All reported cases of MERS worldwide have been linked to the Arabian Peninsula, but some cases were exported via travelers to other countries.
Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome is caused by the MERS-CoV coronavirus and is spread from person to person through close contact within a family or a healthcare setting.
The patient in Indiana went home Friday.
"The patient has tested negative for MERS, is no longer symptomatic and poses no threat to the community," Dr. Alan Kumar, chief medical information officer at Community Hospital in Munster, Ind., said in a statement.
"Community Hospital finalized its discharge plan with the CDC and the Indiana State Department of Health, and the patient was discharged from the hospital. We are proud of our medical staff for recognizing and responding quickly to this incident, and we wish to thank the CDC and the ISDH for their assistance and collaboration."
Multiple tests done by the Indiana State Laboratory and CDC were negative for the presence of ongoing MERS-CoV infection in the patient. No additional cases of MERS in Indiana were identified.
"Given the dramatic increase in MERS cases in the Arabian Peninsula, we expected and are prepared for additional imported cases," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases.
"The reason for this increase in cases is not yet known, but public health investigations are ongoing, and we are pleased to have a team in Saudi Arabia supporting some of those efforts."