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Florida healthcare workers test negative for MERS


By Rachel Landen
Posted: May 20, 2014 - 6:15 pm ET
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Healthcare workers at Orlando (Fla.) Regional Medical Center who were exposed to the Florida patient diagnosed with MERS have since tested negative for the illness.

The Florida Department of Health cleared the seven healthcare workers, including one physician, to return to work as early as Tuesday afternoon after follow-up tests revealed they had not contracted the Middle East respiratory syndrome.

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The workers in question had been in contact with a MERS-infected 44-year-old healthcare worker from Saudi Arabia who had accompanied a family member to Orlando Regional’s emergency department on May 5. The man then later went to the ED at Orlando Health’s Dr. P. Phillips Hospital campus as a patient himself on the night of May 8 and was admitted in the morning after being diagnosed with the second confirmed case of MERS in the U.S.

It was originally reported that five team members at Orlando Regional had been exposed to the infected healthcare worker. That number was later revised upward.

The patient, who showed up in the Phillips ED with fever, chills, muscle aches and diarrhea, spent 10 days in isolation before follow-up tests this week showed that he is now clear of the virus. The hospital discharged him Monday.

The number exposed at Phillips, initially reported as 15, rose to 16 team members, including two physicians. Those healthcare workers have also tested negative for MERS, but will require additional follow-up testing before they are allowed to resume their normal schedules, according to a statement from Orlando Health.

Orlando Health is requiring all 23 healthcare workers exposed to the virus to stay out of work for the full 14-day incubation period.

Meanwhile, the first case of MERS being transmitted from person to person in the U.S. was reported Saturday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That person was reported to have had contact with U.S. MERS patient No. 1, who had been treated at a Munster, Ind., hospital before being released May 9.

Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden


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