MERS-exposed hospital workers in Munster return to work

Two workers at Dr. Phillips Hospital, who were not identified, have shown flu-like symptoms recent days.
May 14, 2014 4:29:01 AM PDT
An official at a northwest Indiana hospital says 50 employees who were told to stay at home in isolation after coming in contact with a man diagnosed with a mysterious virus from the Middle East have been cleared to return to work.

Munster Community Hospital chief medical information officer Dr. Alan Kumar says the first of the cleared workers were scheduled to return to work Monday evening.

MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has an incubation period of two to 14 days. Kumar says the incubation period passed for 35 of the workers on Sunday and for the final 15 on Monday.

Indiana State Department of Health spokesman Ken Severson says the danger for the public in general who came in contact with the patient also has passed.

Health officials said Friday that the patient is considered fully recovered. He was cleared to leave isolation and may travel, if necessary.

"The patient has tested negative for MERS, is no longer symptomatic and poses no threat to the community," said Kumar.

Federal and state health officials held a press conference on the patient's condition on Monday, stating he was in good condition and is improving every day. So far, everyone who has come in contact with him has tested negative for MERS. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed it as the first case of MERS in the United States on Friday.

The patient began showing respiratory symptoms and was brought to the hospital April 28.

MERS is in the same group of viruses as SARS and the common cold, but 30 percent of those who have gotten MERS died. The first cases of MERS appeared in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012.

The patient is a health care provider who works at a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He tells the CDC that while there had been MERS cases at the hospital where he worked, he did not treat any of them personally. He is expected to eventually return to Saudi Arabia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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