WEDNESDAY, May 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The World Health
Organization says that, while there's growing concern about
infections caused by the MERS virus, the threat does not yet
constitute a public health emergency.
That's because there's "no evidence of sustained human-to-human
transmission" of the mysterious virus that first surfaced in the
Middle East two years ago, the WHO said in a news release issued
The vast majority of MERS cases have been reported in Saudi
Arabia, although there have been two confirmed reports of infection
in the United States. Both cases involved health care workers who
had worked in Saudi facilities caring for MERS patients before they
traveled to the United States in recent weeks.
MERS has killed about one-quarter of the people who contracted
the virus, U.S. health officials have reported.
On Tuesday, health officials reported that two Florida hospital
workers who helped treat the man with the second diagnosed case of
MERS in the United States had developed respiratory symptoms. They
were being tested to see if they may have caught the potentially
fatal virus from the man, hospital officials said.
One of the cases probably isn't MERS because the worker started
experiencing symptoms just one day after treating the 44-year-old
patient. The incubation period for MERS is typically five days,
NBC Newsreported Tuesday.
"We want to be extra cautious," said Dr. Antonio Crespo, infectious disease specialist and chief quality officer for the P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando. "These two people were in contact with the patient without a mask."
One of the staffers was sent home after treatment. The other one
is in a special isolation room at the hospital, as is the MERS
News of the second U.S. case of MERS was announced Monday by
federal health officials.
Like the first U.S. case identified earlier this month, the
second case involved a health care provider who lived and worked in
Saudi Arabia, the epicenter of the MERS outbreak. The second
patient -- an unidentified man -- was being treated at the Orlando
hospital and was said to be doing well.
The health risk from MERS to the general public is very low,
federal officials said Monday, because the virus is only passed
through close contact.
The second patient worked in a facility in Saudi Arabia that
cared for MERS patients. The patient was visiting family in central
Florida before entering the hospital. The patient had traveled from
Saudi Arabia to London to Boston to Atlanta, before reaching
Florida, officials said.
The patient felt unwell on a May 1 flight to London, but sought
care in Orlando. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention said it has notified all passengers on the affected
flights to be on the lookout for symptoms.
MERS symptoms typically include shortness of breath, coughing
However, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the U.S. National Center
for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Monday that it is
"likely that if you have not already developed symptoms you are not
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said his agency was contacting the
airlines on which the patient traveled, but the risk to people
traveling with a person infected with MERS is unknown.
As of Monday, there were 538 confirmed cases of MERS worldwide,
and 145 deaths. The vast majority of cases and deaths -- 450 and
118, respectively -- have occurred in Saudi Arabia.
One-fifth of all MERS cases have occurred among health care
workers, Schuchat said.
Frieden added, "We would not be surprised to see more cases, but
we are not predicting there will be."
On April 28, another U.S. health care worker who'd had close
contact with MERS patients in Saudi Arabia was admitted to an
Indiana hospital and was later diagnosed with the respiratory
He was released from Community Hospital in Munster on
In some countries, the virus has spread from person to person
through close contact, such as caring for or living with an
infected person. But, there's currently no evidence of sustained
spread of MERS in general settings, the CDC has said.
The first patient took a plane on April 24 from Riyadh, Saudi
Arabia, to London, then from London to Chicago. He then took a bus
from Chicago to Indiana. On April 27, he started experiencing
"respiratory symptoms," and was admitted to Community Hospital the
next day, the CDC said.
Camels have been identified as carriers of MERS, but it's not
known how the virus is being spread to people.
For more on MERS, visit the
World Health Organization.
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