Healthcare Business News
Dr. Antonio Crespo, chief quality officer at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital and Dr. Kevin Sherin, Florida Department of Health
Crespo (L), Sherin

Orlando MERS patient may have exposed many

By Rachel Landen
Posted: May 13, 2014 - 2:15 pm ET

The patient with the second confirmed U.S. case of MERS visited an Orlando, Fla., emergency room four days before he was admitted to a hospital and placed in isolation, potentially exposing more people to the deadly virus.

Two hospital workers exposed to the patient at Orlando Health's Dr. P. Phillips Hospital subsequently developed flu-like symptoms, but it was not yet determined Tuesday morning whether they had contracted the Middle East respiratory syndrome virus.

The 44-year-old healthcare worker from Saudi Arabia accompanied a family member to the emergency department at Orlando Regional Medical Center on May 5 but was not treated. That visit was four days after arriving in the U.S. to visit family and four days before he was admitted to Dr. P. Phillips Hospital. Both facilities are campuses of Orlando Health.

The patient spent what hospital and health officials called a significant number of hours in the reception area of Orlando Regional Medical Center on May 5, and efforts are underway to contact those people that might have been exposed during that time, they said Tuesday.

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Despite the increased possibility of exposure, the risks to the community and those in the waiting room are “negligible,” said Dr. Kevin Sherin of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.

But the risk to the healthcare workers directly caring for the patient is greater, Sherin said.

At Orlando Regional, five team members, including one physician, were identified as being exposed to the patient.

This is in addition to 15 team members, including two physicians, exposed to the patient at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital. The patient was ultimately admitted there around 4:30 a.m. May 9 after showing up in the emergency department on the evening of May 8 with fever, chills, muscle aches and diarrhea.

The patient's symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, developed during his April 30 flight from Jeddah in the western part of Saudia Arabia to London. He then continued to Boston, Atlanta and finally Orlando, arriving May 1. However, officials said that the infected patient did not have a cough during the flights, thereby lowering the risk of transmission to the more than 500 passengers traveling in close proximity. The CDC is handling notifications to the passengers, and none has become infected, according to CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

All hospital team members at the two Orlando Health locations who had contact with the patient until he was placed in airborne isolation have been identified, contacted and tested, Dr. Antonio Crespo, chief quality officer at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, said Tuesday.

“During the incubation period, which can last up to 14 days, these team members will not be put on the work schedule,” Crespo said. They have also been advised to stay at home and have been provided surgical masks and a phone number to call with questions or if symptoms develop.

Two team members have, in fact, experienced symptoms consistent with MERS. One was admitted when symptoms developed about 24 hours after contact with the infected patient. The hospital is still waiting on test results to determine whether MERS or another illness is causing the patient's fever, aches and cough, Crespo said. The other member was released.

Health officials are also in daily communication with the other exposed team members to monitor their condition. At the conclusion of the incubation period, the 20 members are expected to return for additional testing and blood work to be medically cleared before returning to their duties.

Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden

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