Doctors say Orlando MERS patient improving

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

Health officials said the second U.S. case of a mysterious virus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East has been confirmed in Orange County.

Officials with Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the case Monday afternoon.

According to the CDC, the most recent case involves a 44-year-old man who is a health care worker that works and resides in Saudi Arabia. They believe the patient was helping to treat Middle East Respiratory Syndrome patients there.

Officials said the patient was admitted to the Dr. P. Phillips Hospital on May 9 and is doing well.

"He's been in the hospital in good condition. He's progressing well. He's not requiring oxygen and supplements, and basically we're monitoring his condition on a regular basis," said Dr. Antoni Crespo, with Dr. P. Phillips Hospital.

Officials said the man is in isolation and hasn't had any visitors.

Sixteen hospital employees are out of work and dealing with potential exposure. They'll be observed for the next 14 days, then permitted to return to work.

"They have been contacted, and they're currently being evaluated and tested as CDC says. They will be asked to stay home," said Crespo.  

Crespo said the patient is showing signs of improvement.

“He’s in good spirits. I saw him this morning and he continues to progress well,” he said.

It’s a good sign for the unidentified man because doctors said MERS has a 30 percent mortality rate and there’s no vaccine.

MERS is spread by very close contact, such as caring for, treating or living with an infected person.

“Widespread human-to-human transmission is not the way it has spread,” said Dr. Kevin Sherin with the Florida Department of Health.

The man flew from Saudi Arabia to Orlando, with several stops in between, according to officials, who said they are working to identify people who may have been on the flights with the patient.

According to officials, the man's itinerary took him from Saudi Arabia to London, Boston, Atlanta and then Orlando. He arrived in Orlando May 1 to visit relatives.

Officials said the man had a fever before he took the flight to the U.S., and when he arrived he began complaining of chills and aches.

Initially doctors believed he had the flu, but after a bulletin went out from the CDC alerting doctors of a MERS case in Indiana, they decided to test the man. Two of the three tests came back positive, officials said.

“It is a new, emerging illness to Saudi Arabia and to the world,” Crespo said.

Officials said they expect the man to make a full recovery and then return home to Saudi Arabia.

The risk to the general public is "very low," officials said.

"The Florida Department of Health is working closely with hospital official, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to ensure appropriate care of the patient and protect the health of all residents and visitors in Florida,” said Dr. John Armstrong, the state surgeon general and secretary of health. "There is no broad risk to the health of the general public.”

MERS is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and coughing but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death. A third of those who develop symptoms die from it.

Most cases have been in Saudi Arabia or the Middle East, but earlier this month, the first U.S. case was diagnosed in a man who traveled from Saudi Arabia to Indiana.

Local Hotline for MERS question: 407-858-1490

More Information: CDC guide to frequently asked questions about MERS