9 more MERS infections reported in S.Korea, capital Seoul in danger

Source:Xinhua Published: 2015-6-6 14:55:44

Nine more infections with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) were reported Saturday in South Korea, sending the total number to 50 since the first case was identified on May 20, the health ministry said.

The capital Seoul is feared to become the second hotbed of the MERS spread as seven cases occurred at a Seoul hospital, of which a doctor allegedly had contact with thousands of people without any hindrance.

Among the new cases, three contagions occurred in Pyeongtaek St. Mary's Hospital where the patient zero, called super spreader, infected more than 30 people, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The first patient had been accepted to the hospital in Pyeongtaek, about 60 km south of capital Seoul, for three days from May 15.

Five new cases were those who stayed at the emergency room of Samsung Medical Center in Seoul on May 27 or May 28 together with the 14th infectee.

It raised fears for the launch of the MERS spread in Seoul with a population of more than 10 million through the hospital.

The total number of people infected at the hospital gained to seven, including the hospital's doctor who allegedly had contact with thousands of unspecified individuals.

The Seoul metropolitan government said Thursday that the 38- year-old doctor joined an event attended by 1,565 people, and strode down the street in Seoul under suspected conditions of MERS infection.

The 14th infectee came to Seoul on May 27 to be hospitalized at the Samsung Medical Center's emergency room, in which the seven infectees had contact with the 35-year-old man.

The man originally had been hospitalized at the Pyeongtaek St. Mary's Hospital along with the patient zero. It was feared that the 14th infectee moved the corona virus from the hospital in Pyeongtaek to the one in Seoul.

The 14th infectee traveled to Seoul by bus, raising possibility that tertiary infections might have occurred outside hospitals. No such case has been reported yet.

The health authorities have been tracing around 600 people who could have contacted the 14th patient, including medical staffs and patients as well as visitors of the Samsung Medical Center.

The authorities have looked into all people who dropped by and stayed at the hospital in Pyeongtaek, which has suspended operation since May 29, but it had yet to decide on whether to force the Samsung Medical Center to halt operation.

The health authorities decided to wait and see what would happen in the Seoul hospital as the incubation period of two weeks would mature on June 11 given the fact that the 14th infectee visited the emergency room on May 27.

Kwon Joon-wook, head of the central headquarters for MERS management, told a press briefing that the second epidemic phase may have begun as many new MERS infections happened at the hospital in Seoul.

Kwon said that the first epidemic entered the calming phase and the second epidemic would calm down after a peak next Monday, stressing that no case beyond tertiary infection has been identified as all infections occurred within hospitals.

Meanwhile, the remaining case, tested positive Friday, contracted the virus from the 16th infectee at an unnamed hospital where the tertiary infectee's family was hospitalized together with the 16th infectee.

The MERS is a respiratory illness caused by a new type of corona-virus, similar to the SARS virus that killed more than 770 people worldwide following a 2003 outbreak. There is no known vaccine or treatment for the MERS, of which fatality rate reaches 40.7 percent.

The first MERS case was spotted in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The World Health Organization has reported more than 1,000 cases of MERS globally and more than 400 deaths.
Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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