Officials: 2nd US case of MERS being reported in Orlando
Health officials have confirmed a second U.S. case of a mysterious virus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East. The patient is being treated for MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, at Dr. Phillips Hospital in Orlando.
MERS is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and cough but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death. A third of those who develop symptoms die from it, and there is no vaccine to prevent MERS.
"This particular virus is spread by close contact," said Dr. Kevin Sherin, with the Orange County Health Department.
During a news conference on Monday afternoon conducted by the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officials said the patient in Orlando is a healthcare worker who resides in Saudi Arabia.
On May 1, the 44-year-old patient departed Jeddah to London, and then flew to Orlando, with stops in Boston and Atlanta. Officials said the patient felt sick en route from Saudi Arabia to London.
Hospital staff are treating the case, using airborne containment. Doctors said the man checked into the emergency room at Dr. Phillips Hospital on Friday at around midnight, complaining of muscle aches, fever and chills. The patient is doing well now but still has a fever, doctors say.
"This person had minimal cough," said Dr. Sherin. "He wasn’t really coughing when he came into the United States."
Passengers who flew on the same flight as the patient are being contacted by officials. Sixteen healthcare workers at the hospital and family members of the patient are being tested and have been asked to stay home in isolation for 14 days.
"They've been contacted, all of them, and they are in the process of being evaluated and tested," Dr. Sherin said. "And they will be asked to stay home during this period of 14 days."
Most cases of MERS have been in Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. But earlier this month a first U.S. case was diagnosed in a man who traveled from Saudi Arabia to Indiana.
How is MERS spread? What are all of the symptoms? Where does it come from? You can find answers to those questions and more on a web page set up by the CDC, by clicking here. A hotline has also be established in Central Florida if you wish to talk to a health official. That number is 407-858-1490.