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Health care workers tested, isolated as MERS patient treated at Orlando-area hospital

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ORLANDO, Fla. - A MERS patient being treated at Dr. P. Phillips hospital in Orange County is doing well, but still has a low fever and other symptoms, Orlando Health officials said Tuesday.

On Monday officials with Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a 44-year-old man was in the hospital with the second case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, reported in the United States.

The man is a health care worker who works and resides in Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday officials said there may be about 100 people who had been in contact with the patient, and 20 of them are Orlando Health workers. Fifteen of the 20 are doctors and employees of Dr. Phillips Hospital, and the five others work at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

"We are prepared for situations like this and this is what we do every day," said Dr. Antoni Crespo with Orlando Health.

Hospital officials said one employee is in the emergency department at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital with symptoms of pneumonia.

The MERS patient and sick employee are both being kept in two of the hospital's 26 negative pressure isolation rooms where the air that could contain the infection is circulated quickly out through a ceiling vent system and forced through special filters before it goes outside.

Department of Health employees are working to track down those who may have been in the waiting rooms with the patient who has MERS.

Officials said the patient first started having symptoms of muscle aches while on a plane from London to the U.S. on May 1.

When the symptoms didn't get better, he checked himself in to the hospital on May 9.

Officials said all of those who were exposed have been tested nasally and orally for the MERS virus. Their family members have also been tested.

According to officials, those who were exposed are being self-isolated at their homes until test results are returned. They are getting daily symptom-check phone calls.

"They've been asked to remain at home. They've all been provided surgical masks and have been instructed how to use those," said Dr. Ken Michaels with Orlando Health.

Doctors said the risk of an outbreak is very low.

"I think the risk is negligible to this community. I think the risk is negligible to those who were in the waiting room or in the radiology area at ORMC," said Dr. Kevin Sherin of the Florida Department of Health.

Sherin said that people must be in very close contact with a person who has MERS to get it, which is why people in the medical industry are more likely to be infected than those in the general public.

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