Two Florida hospital employees who came into contact with the second confirmed case of the deadly respiratory virus known as MERS in the United States have developed flulike symptoms and are being tested for the viral infection, hospital and state health department officials said Tuesday.
One employee of Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando was admitted Monday. The other employee is home. Those employees are among the 20 hospital personnel, family members and dozens of others being monitored for potential exposure.
Hospital officials said they hope to receive test results in the next day or two.
Meanwhile, a patient with the second confirmed case of Middle East respiratory syndrome, a 44-year-old health-care worker from Saudi Arabia, remains in isolation. He still has a fever but is in good spirits, doctors said Tuesday during a news conference.
Hospital officials said the man mostly stayed home and did not visit tourist sites before he arrived at the hospital May 8. But he accompanied a family member to the Orlando Regional Medical Center on May 5 and waited for several hours in the reception area while the family member underwent medical tests.
Health officials are contacting people who were in the reception area and others in the emergency department the same time as the patient May 8.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the Florida case days after a health-care worker who was the first confirmed U.S. case of MERS was released from an Indiana hospital Friday. Health officials said the Indiana man no longer had symptoms, tested negative for the virus and posed no threat to the community.
Because the virus does not appear to be transmitted by casual contact but instead requires close contact, health officials stressed that people who were in the waiting rooms of the two Florida medical facilities at the same time as the patient have a low risk of contacting the disease.
Antonio Crespo, one of Dr. P. Phillips Hospital’s infectious-
disease specialists who is treating the patient, said the man was not coughing when he accompanied the family member May 5, so there is less risk of transmission.
The patient left Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on May 1 and flew to London, then to Boston, Atlanta and Orlando, where he is visiting family. U.S. health officials are attempting to contact more than 500 people in 20 states who may have been exposed. International authorities are doing the same.
The man worked in a hospital in Jiddah that was treating MERS cases.
MERS, first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, can cause severe acute respiratory illness with fever, coughing and shortness of breath. More than 30 percent of patients who have symptoms of MERS have died.
There is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for MERS, which comes from the same family of viruses as the one that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS killed almost 800 people worldwide in 2003. As of Monday, there were 538 MERS cases in at least 12 countries that have been confirmed and reported to the World Health Organization, including 145 deaths. Of those, Saudi Arabia had 450 cases and 112 deaths, officials said.