MERS fears for US health workers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 1:47am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 1:47am

Two health workers at a hospital in the US state of Florida, who were exposed to a patient with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome have begun showing flu-like symptoms, and one of the two has been hospitalised.

Officials at the Dr P Phillips Hospital said yesterday the two health care workers were exposed to the patient - the second confirmed case of MERS on US soil - in the emergency department before it became clear that he might be infected with the virus, which is often deadly.

The second health care worker is being isolated in his home and watched for signs of infection.

Hospital and local health officials said at a press conference that the MERS patient, also a health care worker, had made a visit last week the Orlando Regional Medical Centre to accompany another person who was having a medical procedure. The MERS patient was symptomatic at the time, but did not seek treatment.

Five health care workers from the regional medical centre and another 15 from the Dr P Phillips Hospital are being tested for MERS, including the two patients who have developed symptoms.

Hospital officials said they are awaiting test results to determine whether any of the exposed hospital workers have MERS.

Health officials stressed that MERS is not a risk to the general public in the US, but it does spread among healthcare workers who have close contact with infected patients.

Meanwhile Saudi health authorities announced yesterday five new deaths from MERS, raising the total death toll in the country worst-hit by the mysterious coronavirus to 152 since it appeared in 2012.

MERS causes fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse