Florida healthcare workers may have been infected with MERS after patient exposure

May 14, 2014

Details are sketchy as this issue of LABline prepares to blast, but news media are reporting that two healthcare workers have become ill with flu-like symptoms at the Orlando, Florida hospital where a patient ill with Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) is being treated. The workers were apparently exposed to the patient in the Emergency Department before he was diagnosed as having been infected with the virus. One of the workers has been hospitalized, while the other has been isolated at home. The two symptomatic employees, along with 18 others workers at the hospital and at a regional medical center, are awaiting test results to see if they have been exposed to MERS. It has not been confirmed that either symptomatic healthcare worker or any of the others who had contact with the patient have MERS, but health officials acknowledge that MERS can spread among staff who have close contact with infected patients.

The patient, who is also a healthcare worker in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, recently traveled from there to Orlando by way of London and Boston. He is the second patient diagnosed with MERS in the United States. Reportedly, he is responding well to treatment. Though approximately one-third of the 483 patients infected with the virus in Saudi Arabia have died, MERS-CoV is usually not fatal when treated promptly and appropriately. The first U.S. patient, who traveled from Saudi Arabia to Chicago, also by way of London, and then (by bus) from Chicago to Indiana, was released last week from an Indiana hospital. Read the transcript of a CDC press briefing conducted yesterday, May 12.

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