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MERS Cases Highlight Risk to Healthcare Workers


By Robert Lowes
May 13, 2014

Update: The Florida Department of Health said Wednesday that 2 patients who became ill after exposure to a MERS patient conclusively tested negative for MERS-CoV. Testing of 18 other healthcare workers who were exposed to the patient wasn't complete, but preliminary results have come back negative.

The second confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the United States, like the first one, points to a hard-hit patient population — healthcare workers. They comprise 1 in 5 cases worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the first case in Indiana, announced May 2, and the one in Florida announced today, the patients were healthcare workers who has travelled from Saudi Arabia — the hotbed of the MERS outbreak — to visit family in this country.

At a news conference today, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said that transmission of the MERS coronavirus (CoV) requires close contact, the sort that occurs when someone cares for an infected person at home or in the hospital. Otherwise, "we don't think there's a risk [of easy transmission] from casual contact," said Dr. Frieden.

As of May 12, the number of confirmed MERS cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) stood at 538, with 138 deaths, since the coronavirus was first detected in 2012.

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