Two Health Workers Feared Infected With MERS Test Negative

Two health care workers who treated a MERS-infected patient and then got sick themselves have tested negative for the virus, a Florida hospital said Wednesday.

The two workers developed respiratory symptoms after they took care of the 44-year-old patient, himself a health care worker who was visiting Orlando from Saudi Arabia.

Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, where the patient is being kept in isolation, says the two were treated as if they had the virus, but test results have now shown they are not infected with it.

"We are still awaiting test results on the other 18 healthcare workers from Dr. P. Phillips Hospital and Orlando Regional Medical Center," the hospital said in a statement.

"The patient who tested positive for MERS remains in isolation at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital. He has been fever free for 24 hours and clinically is doing well."

Doctors had said they were acting with an abundance of caution in isolating the two sick hospital staffers. MERS is not terribly transmissible -- it usually requires prolonged and close contact.

"A lot of people were actually somewhat suspect of those two individuals because they became sick within a very short period of time of their exposure, and usually it takes about three to seven days or so before you actually have the onset of symptoms from your exposure," said Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

"And that seemed a little too quick."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials are tracking down anyone who was in contact with the patient before protective measures kicked in, just to be sure.

But the test results suggest that casual contact has not spread the virus. Both men who have been found infected with MERS in the U.S. have been health care workers traveling from Saudi Arabia and doctors presume they were infected there.

The first case, who was treated in Indiana, has recovered and gone home and no one he was in contact with has shown signs of infection, either.