Two healthcare workers in Florida may have MERS after treating patient

Two Florida hospital healthcare workers who treated the MERS patient have respiratory symptoms.
By Alex Cukan  |  May 13, 2014 at 5:47 PM
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ORLANDA, Fla., May 13 (UPI) -- The second confirmed case of MERS in Orlando, Fla., is improving, but health officials say one healthcare worker may be infected.

Dr. Antonio Crespo, infectious disease specialist and chief quality officer for the Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando, said two hospital healthcare workers who treated the patient -- the second MERS case in the U.S. -- have respiratory symptoms, NBC News reported.

However, one of the healthcare workers started showing symptoms just a day after treating the patient -- a man who lives and works in Saudi Arabia who flew home to Florida to visit family -- and the incubation period for MERS-CoV is usually about five days, but can be as long as 14 days.

MERS-CoV is the coronavirus that causes Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome.

One of the workers has been hospitalized and the other has been sent to home isolation.

The MERS patient, a 44-year-old man who is a healthcare worker in Saudi Arabia, was visiting family in Orlando. On May 5 the man, who identity has not been made public, went to the Orlando Regional Medical Center with a friend who had a medical issue not related to MERS, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

On May 8, the patient sought treatment for fever, muscle aches and diarrhea at the Dr. P. Phillips emergency room. He was admitted to Dr. P. Phillips Hospital May 9 and has been in isolation ever since doctors suspected he might have MERS.

"The patient is in good condition and is improving," Crespo said in a statement.

"We are taking every precaution, but believe the risk of transmission from this patient is very low since his symptoms were mild and he was not coughing when he arrived at the hospital."

The risk of contracting MERS-CoV is "negligible" for tourists coming to the Orlando area, health officials said.

Dr. Ken Michaels, of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said at a news conference that 17 Dr. P. Phillips Hospital staff and 14 from Orlando Regional Medical Center were in contact with the patient and were tested for the virus.

The team members were sent home and will not be working for 14 days -- the incubation period for the disease. They will be checked on daily by telephone for MERS symptoms -- congestion, cough, fever higher than 100.4 °F, shortness of breath, pneumonia, body aches and diarrhea. The test results should be available in a day or two, Michaels said.

The patient first flew from Saudi Arabia to London and then through Boston and Atlanta. He arrived in Orlando May 1. Efforts are underway to make contact with individuals who had close contact with the patient during travel or in the Orlando area, health officials said.

The virus has spread from person to person under close contact among family members or from healthcare workers treating a patient -- not from casual contract in public.

The first U.S. patient with MERS, also a healthcare provider who lives and works in Saudi Arabia, was released for home isolation last Friday from a Munster, Ind., hospital.

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