2 Dr. Phillips Hospital staff members test negative for MERS, officials say

By Michelle Dendy, ClickOrlando.com Web Editor, mdendy@clickorlando.com
Published On: May 14 2014 11:51:32 AM EDT
Updated On: May 14 2014 05:28:42 PM EDT

The team members at Dr. Phillips Hospital who were showing symptoms of MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, tested negative for the virus, officials said.

ORLANDO, Fla. -

The team members at Dr. Phillips Hospital who were showing symptoms of MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, tested negative for the virus, officials said Wednesday.

[RELATED:  5 things to know about MERS | WHO: MERS spread serious]

Officials at Dr. Phillips Hospital that the Saudi resident has been fever free for 24 hours and is being treated in isolation. Caretakers have to wear goggles, gloves and a special suit while tending to him.

“We want to assure the public that MERS-CoV  in Florida is contained and there is no broad threat to the general public,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health, Dr. John Armstrong, in a release. “We are grateful to the team at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital for their timely diagnosis and care of the patient. Floridians are reminded to practice simple steps to stay healthy: wash your hands often, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and stay home if you are sick.”

The two Dr. Phillips workers who tested negative for the virus includes the team member who was hospitalized on Monday and the team member who was discharged on Monday.

“We are extremely pleased that none of our team members have tested positive, including the two team members that developed flu-like symptoms over the weekend,” said Dr. Antonio Crespo of Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in a release.  “We are working to complete this investigation and we remain cautiously optimistic that test results from other team members will also be negative.”

Test results have not been released on the other 18 healthcare workers from Dr. Phillips Hospital and Orlando Regional Medical Center.

MERS is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and cough but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death. A third of those who develop symptoms die from it.

The man who was found to be infected with MERS left Saudi Arabia on April 30 and flew to London, then had connections in Boston and Atlanta before landing at the Orlando International Airport on May 1 to visit family.

Dr. Crespo, an infectious disease specialist who is treating the man, said the the patient started feeling ill when he landed in London, describing his symptoms as muscle aches.

Crespo said the man took flu medicine and an antibiotic he brought from Saudi Arabia until May 8, when he went to Dr. Phillips Hospital.

Health officials said Tuesday roughly 500 people may have been exposed to the MERS virus by flying on planes within the United States with the sick patient.

One of those travelers learned Tuesday morning she had been exposed and was sent a health checklist.

The information line for the public at the Florida Department of Health in Orange County is 407-858-1490.  Information from the CDC for the public is available by calling 800-232-4636.

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