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Hospital workers exposed to MERS to return to work

– Workers at a northwest Indiana hospital placed on home isolation after coming in contact with a man diagnosed with a mysterious virus from the Middle East have begun returning to work, the hospital’s chief medical information officer said.

The first of the 50 cleared workers began returning to Community Hospital in Munster on Monday evening, Dr. Alan Kumar said in a telephone interview. The rest will return on Tuesday.

MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has an incubation period of two to 14 days and appears in most cases within five days. The incubation period passed for 35 of the workers on Sunday and for the final 15 on Monday and they all tested negative for the virus, Kumar said.

“They’ve all been tested in the last 24 to 36 hours for their final 14-day incubation testing,” Kumar said.

He said each employee was monitored daily and none of them showed “classic symptoms” of the MERS virus such as fever or shortness of breath.

“Some had mild cough, or congestion and sinus symptoms, which is typical for allergy season this time of year, but most have been asymptomatic and have no symptoms whatsoever. All are healthy and in good spirits and looking forward to coming back,” he said.

Indiana State Department of Health spokesman Ken Severson said the danger for the public in general who came in contact with the patient also had passed and there have been no reports of anyone else in Indiana becoming ill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a second U.S. case of MERS in Florida, but said it was unrelated to the Indiana case.

The man with the first U.S. case of MERS was released from the hospital on Friday after health officials determined he posed “no threat to the community.” The patient tested negative for MERS and was cleared by health officials to travel.

The Indiana Department of Health announced Friday it had closed the MERS hotline it opened after the first MERS case was initially reported.