A rare case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, has shown up in Central Florida, and the victim remains in isolation at Dr. Phillips Hospital in Orlando.
The Department of Health and infectious disease doctors in Orlando are keeping a close eye on the latest case, which involves a 44-year-old man who works at a hospital in Saudi Arabia.
The man 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. Antonio 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.
Crespo said several tests were performed on the man and MERS was confirmed overnight Sunday.
The man is in good condition, officials said Tuesday.
The virus has a high mortality rate -- about 30 percent -- but at this point, doctors said they don't believe there's much for people in Central Florida to worry about. They said MERS is only transmitted through respiratory droplets.
“He did really not have a cough, so we believe in this case that the transferability was really quite low risk,” said Dr. Kevin Sherin, of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.
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The infected man is being kept in isolation at the hospital and no one can visit him. Caretakers have to wear goggles, gloves and a special suit while tending to him. Crespo said the man was in good condition and continues to make progress.
“Current patients in the hospital and current team members working in the hospital as well as any patient visiting the hospital at this point is safe. The patient is in the proper isolation precautions and there is no risk for the rest of the people,” Crespo said.
The man's family and 16 hospital workers who cared for him before it was determined he had MERS have been quarantined and will be monitored for the next 14 days.
Officials said 15 of the team members were from Dr. Phillips hospital and five members were for Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Orlando International Airport released a statement on Tuesday, saying that there is "no immediate threat to travelers."
"The condition does not spread easily from person to person therefore the risk of getting the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus infection from someone who has it is low. It is primarily transmitted through direct contact," said Phil Brown, OIA executive director. "The Authority is coordinating with The Centers for Disease Control and the Florida Department of Health in Orange County for updates and any protocols."
The CDC has not recommend changes to travel plans, according to OIA officials.
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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