By Maggie Fox
Two of the health care workers who treated a MERS patient in Florida have come down with respiratory symptoms, and are being tested to see if they may have caught the mysterious virus from him, hospital officials say.
In at least one of the cases it’s almost certain not to be MERS — the staffer started showing symptoms just a day after treating the patient, who’s the second person to be diagnosed with MERS in the United States.
The incubation period for MERS — meaning the time it takes from contacting someone who’s infected to showing the first symptoms — is usually about five days.
“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 treated and sent home, and the other is in a special isolation room at the hospital, like the MERS patient is.
Health care workers who treat patients with the virus are the most likely to become infected themselves, probably because of the close contact.
Crespo said 20 health care workers at two hospitals who may have been exposed to the virus are keeping themselves isolated at home and being regularly tested for MERS.