Image: Aaron Favila/Associated Press
Two healthcare workers at an Orlando-area hospital were exposed to a patient with the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and are now showing symptoms, officials say.
The Dr. P. Phillips Hospital healthcare workers, who were exposed to the patient with the second confirmed case of the MERS virus in the U.S., reportedly developed "flu-like symptoms" within 24 to 72 hours after contact.
One has been hospitalized, Reuters reports, while the other is in quarantine at his home and is being monitored for additional signs of infection.
The CDC on Monday confirmed the second case of the MERS virus, which kills 30% of those it infects, identifying the patient as a healthcare worker who had recently traveled to Orlando from Saudi Arabia.
“This second confirmed case of MERS in a person who worked in health care from an area of risk is not surprising,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in announcing the case. “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," he said.
“The risk to the U.S. general public from MERS still remains very low," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases.
As of Monday, a total of 538 lab-confirmed cases of MERS had been identified worldwide since 2012, including 145 deaths. Saudi Arabia has the majority of those cases, with 450 lab-confirmed cases of MERS and 100 deaths in the country.
The CDC says most of the patients developed severe acute respiratory illness, with fever, cough and shortness of breath. Officials say they do not know where the virus came from or exactly how it spreads — and does not yet recommend people change their travel plans to or from Saudi Arabia.
Officials are holding an emergency meeting in Geneva today to determine whether the latest MERS outbreak should be identified as a "public health emergency of international concern." They are expected to reveal their findings on Wednesday.
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