2 Orlando hospital workers test negative for MERS

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Two employees tested negative for a rare virus days after coming into contact with a Saudi resident infected with the second confirmed MERS case in the U.S., a spokeswoman for an Orlando hospital said Wednesday.

One of the two employees tested after showing symptoms of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was hospitalized Monday, said Katie Dagenais of Dr. P. Phillips Hospital. The other was discharged the same day. The hospitalized patient, identified only as a woman, was expected to be released sometime Wednesday, according to Dr. Antonio Crespo, the Infectious Diseases Specialist at Phillips.

Hospital officials were still awaiting test results from 18 other health care workers who are being monitored for potentially having the virus. The workers are based at Phillips and Orlando Regional Medical Center. Dr. Kevin Sherin, health officer with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said Wednesday afternoon that all of the remaining health care workers have undergone at least some initial MERS testing, and those results have all been negative. However, he said they will continue to be subjected to more testing going forward.

Sherin added that doctors tracking the case in Orlando "believe that this infection is contained" and that there was "minimal risk to the community."

MERS is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and cough but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death.

The 44-year-old Saudi resident with whom the workers came into contact arrived at the emergency room at Phillips on May 8. Three days earlier, he had visited Orlando Regional Medical Center with a friend who went to the hospital for a test.

He remained in isolation at the hospital, officials said Wednesday. He has been fever-free for 24 hours and clinically is doing well, they said.

The remaining 18 health care workers that were in contact with the man will be monitored at home for fever, chills and muscle aches.

Despite an increase in cases, the virus' spread in the Middle East and beyond isn't a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

The White House also said Tuesday that President Barack Obama had been briefed on the MERS cases in the U.S. and that his team is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and officials in Florida.

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