The CDC has published CDC Transcript: Second case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus infection (MERS) in the United States. An excerpt:
MIRIAM FALCO: Hi there. Can you tell us if this healthcare worker working in Saudi Arabia was taking care of patients with MERS? That came up with the first patient as well and I believe in that case that wasn't the case. But in this -- did this health care worker work with patients with MERS?
And also, it sounds like this patient was infectious. Can you correct me if I’m wrong since you said there were symptoms developing between London and Boston, which, of course, makes it a little scarier to some.
And finally, you said that this is more like SARS in the way it is spread. In the past, the comparison to SARS has been not so strong because, of course, with SARS, you had 8,000 people sickened and almost 800 people killed. Those numbers are much lower in this particular case. I was surprised to hear that analogy unless you're only specifically talking about the close contact taking care of someone.
TOM FRIEDEN: Let me answer your third question, and Dr. Schuchat will answer your first. What I meant by that is that what we're seeing in this is a risk to people who have close contact with patients who are ill. Whether they're family members or family caregivers or people who are in hospitals particularly if infection control is not optimal. What we're not seeing in this as we did not see with SARS, except in unique events with SARS, is broader transmission in the community.
ANNE SCHUCHAT: Let me take the other two questions that you had. Our information is preliminary right now about the health care worker's exposures in Saudi Arabia, but we do believe that the patient was working in a facility that was caring for people with MERS. We don't have specific details of this individual's direct contact with MERS patients right now, but there's good collaboration between the Florida team from the county health department and the hospital and CDC, and we're following up with our colleagues who were in Saudi Arabia with the team over there. So I suspect that kind of detail will be forthcoming.
Now, you mentioned that you used the phrase “the patient was infectious while traveling.” I'd like to step back from that. We understand that the patient had some symptoms while traveling, but we really don't know whether the patient was in a state where transmission was possible.
Again, as you may recall from SARS, what we saw was very limited transmission in the community, even when people had symptoms. The primary transmission was when they were very sick in the hospital with pneumonia and difficulty breathing. And so we didn't see, even with households, we saw very limited spread even when there were symptoms.
So I would differentiate a mild feeling of being unwell with a clear knowledge that the patient was infectious. Again as Dr. Frieden said, it's out of abundance of caution that we want to contact everybody on all of the flights. That may help us understand whether you can spread this kind of virus when you have the type of symptoms that the person apparently had.