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Doctor exposed to MERS in Florida hospital remained healthy, left Canada

A colorized transmission of the MERS coronavirus that emerged is pictured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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A colorized transmission of the MERS coronavirus that emerged is pictured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases

TORONTO - The Public Health Agency of Canada says an American doctor who came to Canada after being exposed to the MERS virus has been allowed to return to the United States.

A spokesperson for the agency says the unidentified man did not develop symptoms of Middle East respiratory syndrome and tested negative for the virus.

Stephane Shank said the doctor returned to the U.S. with the consent of both Canadian and U.S. public health officials.

The man learned after coming to Canada on vacation that he had been exposed to the second case of MERS detected in the U.S., in a Florida hospital.

The exposed doctor isolated himself while in this country and underwent testing.

Shank did not indicate when the man returned to the United States or how often he was tested before being cleared to travel.

He also did not say how the man travelled back to the United States.

But last week Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, said the man would probably be given the green light to go home over the Victoria Day weekend if he remained healthy, continued to test negative for the MERS virus and agreed to wear a surgical mask if he travelled by plane.

The Public Health Agency never disclosed where in Canada the doctor was staying, or if he was travelling alone.

The man was one of about 20 health-care workers from Florida who were being monitored and tested after they were exposed to a patient with MERS on May 8 in a hospital in Orlando, Fla.

The patient, who is also a doctor, lives and works in Jidda, Saudi Arabia. The hospital where he works has treated MERS patients. He travelled to Orlando on April 30 and May 1 via London, Boston and Atlanta.

Officials in Florida announced over the weekend that the patient had recovered from his illness and had been released from hospital.

Since the first known infections occurred in April 2012, roughly 650 infections with the MERS virus have been reported by 19 different countries. Saudi Arabia has reported the vast majority; as of Tuesday the country had reported 540 cases and 175 deaths.

To date no cases have been reported in Canada.

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