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MERS Warning Signs Go Up At Miami International Airport

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A sobering warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now greets passengers at Miami International Airport.

There are now warning signs posted near security checkpoints which alert travelers going to the Arabian Peninsula about Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, and how to prevent it.

Although the warning is for people flying to the Middle East, other travelers are still worried.

“I’m always washing (my hands,)” said Elizabeth Andrade who was flying from Miami to Baltimore. “I carry with me a lotion because my hands dry so quickly because I’m always washing.”

Some 500 air travelers are being asked to get tested for MERS, a potentially fatal virus. Those 500 people were on one of four flights with a Saudi Arabian man who ended up in Orlando. He was diagnosed with MERS, the second confirmed case in the U.S.

“I think people should definitely be nervous if they’re flying,” said Jessica O’Donnell. “I don’t think people should stop traveling by any means. I have a friend from school from Saudi Arabia. I can’t imagine if she wasn’t allowed to come here to go to school.”

The first confirmed case in the U.S. was in Indiana, the second in Florida.

The Florida patient is a healthcare provider who works in Saudi Arabia. He traveled to Florida on flights that stopped in London, Boston, and Atlanta before arriving in Orlando on May 1st.

He showed up at the emergency room at Dr. Phillips Hospital in Orlando on May 8th with flu-like symptoms.

Two hospital employees, who came into contact with the patient, were tested for the rare MERS virus but those tests have come back negative, according to a spokeswoman for the hospital.

Katie Dagenais said Wednesday that the two tested employees from Dr. P. Phillips Hospital include one who was hospitalized Monday. The other was discharged the same day.

Hospital officials are still awaiting test results from 18 health care workers from Dr. P. Phillips Hospital and Orlando Regional Medical Center who are being monitored for potentially having the virus. The patient visited Orlando Regional Medical Center with a friend who went to the hospital for a test on May 5.

Tuesday, hospital officials said the 44-year-old patient still had a low-grade fever and was being treated in isolation but he was in good spirits.

MERS is a respiratory illness that begins with a flu-like fever and cough but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death.

Health experts say it’s not highly contagious, but little is known about how it spreads.

The Centers for Disease Control is asking those concerned about infection to avoid touching their face, avoid contact with sick people, and to wash their hands often.

At this time, the CDC is not advising people to change their travel plans. They are asking people who are traveling to the Middle East to get tested if they return from the region and feel sick within 14 days of their arrival.

The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama had been briefed on the MERS cases in the U.S.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama’s team is watching the situation very closely and that the Centers for Disease Control is coordinating responses along with Florida officials.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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