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Second US MERS Infection May Have Spread

May 13, 2014 02:40 PM EDT
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The second ever case of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in the United State may have spread to two additional people, according to recent reports. Both potential MERS victims are healthcare workers who made contact with the initial victim and have since been isolated.

Two healthcare workers who made contact with Florida's first MERS patient were recently exhibiting symptoms common for a respiratory infection.

Dr. Antonio Crespo, an infectious disease specialist and chief quality officer for the P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando, told NBC News on Tuesday that two of the hospital staff were isolated after they first exhibited symptoms of a potential MERS infection. Both healthcare workers reportedly did not wear masks while in contact with the hospital's first ever MERS patient.

The patient in question, a 44-year-old man who works as a healthcare Worker in Saudi Arabia, has come to United States to visit family in Florida. When he was first diagnosed with MERS at P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando on Monday, May 12, he officially became the second case of MERS the US has ever seen. He had been in the US for eight days before being hospitalized, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared late Tuesday that this second case was an isolated and imported case - a by-product of the ongoing MERS outbreaks in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The first confirmed US case of MERS had also involved a healthcare worker returning to the States from Saudi Arabia. He, along with several members of the Indian hospital staff where he was treated, have been sent home, and cleared of the disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), while MERS has become increasingly prevalent in Saudi Arabia - making it a threat to international travelers - the virus itself has not become more contagious and poses very little risk to countries that can properly isolate imported cases.

While the way the virus spreads still remains unclear, the WHO reports that nearly one fourth of all MERS cases have been among healthcare workers, making these two most recent potential infections unsurprising.

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