MERS Patient Sat In Busy ER For Hours
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[May 14, 2014]
By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO (Reuters) - The second U.S.
patient to be diagnosed with the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
(MERS) spent at least four hours in the public waiting room of a busy
Florida emergency department before he was seen by a doctor, a hospital
Almost eight more hours passed before staff at Orlando's Dr. P.
Phillips Hospital determined the patient had traveled from Saudi
Arabia, where he worked at a hospital, began to suspect his exposure
to MERS and had him moved to an isolation room, the hospital's chief
quality control officer said.
The official, Dr. Antonio Crespo, said that as of Tuesday, he had
changed procedures in the emergency department of Dr. P. Phillips
Hospital so that any patient who comes in with flu-like symptoms
will be asked whether they traveled to Saudi Arabia or other
countries experiencing MERS outbreaks.
"That is one of the learning lessons of this experience. Yes, we
could have asked this sooner. I think we have created more
awareness," Crespo told Reuters in an interview.
The extended window of time may have exposed hospital staff and
other patients to the virus, which is responsible for a worsening
outbreak in Saudi Arabia and is estimated to kill about a third of
Florida officials said on Tuesday two healthcare workers who were in
contact with the patient in the ER late last week had since
developed flu-like symptoms and were being tested for MERS. Results
are expected on Wednesday.
The possibility that the illness, which has no known treatment, was
spreading raised new concerns about the ability of global health
officials to contain it.
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While the Orlando patient waited to be admitted, he was treated in a
single room in the emergency department where healthcare workers
wore gloves and gowns due to his diarrhea, but did not wear goggles
and face masks appropriate for protecting them from the virus,
Florida officials said they were monitoring the health of 20
healthcare workers who had been in contact with the patient,
including a doctor who had already left for Canada. They also were
trying to track down nearly 100 people who may have overlapped with
the patient at two Orlando medical facilities he visited.
(Editing by Michele Gershberg and Ken Wills)
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