Mers virus: Two negative tests in Florida

Particles of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus that emerged in 2012 are seen in an undated colorized transmission electron micrograph

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Two Florida healthcare workers who came in contact with a confirmed Mers case and began showing flu-like symptoms have tested negative for the virus.

But hospital officials are still awaiting test results from 18 health care workers from two Orlando hospitals who are being monitored for symptoms.

On Monday, the second US case of Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) was confirmed.

The virus has killed at least 145 people elsewhere

The two confirmed "imported cases" had been both healthcare workers from Saudi Arabia, the country where most of the deaths have occurred.

Health officials say Mers only appears to spread through close contact, but there is no known cure.

Risk to US 'low'

Hospital officials in Orlando told reporters the second confirmed US case had made a visit to the Orlando Regional Medical Center last week, but only to accompany another person having a medical procedure.

What is Mers?

  • It's a type of coronavirus
  • These cause respiratory infections in humans and animals
  • Symptoms include fever, cough and breathing difficulties
  • It can cause pneumonia and sometimes kidney failure
  • Experts believe the virus is not very contagious
  • They are unclear on the best treatment but advise good hand hygiene to prevent transmission

The patient, a healthcare worker who lived in Saudi Arabia, had symptoms at the time, but did not seek treatment.

He was later admitted to hospital on 8 May. He is said to be doing well and is isolated in hospital.

Five healthcare workers from the regional medical centre and another 15 from the Dr P Phillips Hospital were tested for Mers, including the two who developed symptoms.

The CDC has said the overall risk to the US is "very low" and says it does not appear the virus has changed.

Mers causes coughing, fever and sometimes fatal pneumonia, and is a virus from the same family as Sars, severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed around 800 people worldwide.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported a total of 536 cases of Mers since 2012, the majority inside Saudi Arabia, and 145 deaths.

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