Fifth Person Dies Of MERS Virus In South Korea

June 7, 2015 2:27 pm

Officials in South Korea say another person has died of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), bringing the total number of deaths to five.

Sixty-four people have been infected by the virus since it was first reported in South Korea on 20 May.

Hundreds of schools have closed and hundreds of people quarantined.

Acting Prime Minister Choi Kyung-hwan sought to calm down fears, saying there was no reason to believe that the virus will significantly spread further in the country.

“So far, all the MERS cases have been hospital-associated, and there has been no case of an infection in other social settings. We think we have a chance at putting the outbreak under total control,” Mr Choi told a news conference.

While the virus has no vaccine, health experts say it spreads through close contact with infected people and not through the air.

The UN health agency has reported that there’s no evidence yet in South Korea of “sustained transmission in the community”.

The government announced the names of the 24 hospitals where the MERS patients have been diagnosed or had been treated before their condition was confirmed.

This will allow people who have visited those facilities in recent weeks to report themselves if they are showing symptoms similar to MERS-related illnesses, Mr Choi said.

While the government had earlier identified one hospital in a city south of Seoul where the first MERS case was confirmed, and another in southern Seoul which has been a significant source of infections, it had been reluctant to release the full list of hospitals over concerns that it would cause a disruption in services if people started avoiding them.

The government said it will also strengthen its monitoring of the hundreds of undiagnosed patients who are quarantined at their homes because officials believe they might have contracted the virus.

First identified in humans in 2012, MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

But MERS has a much higher death rate at 38%, according to World Health Organisation figures.

The South Korean MERS outbreak is traced to a man who returned from a business trip to the Middle East. His wife, who was also infected, has recovered and became the first in the outbreak to be discharged from the hospital, officials said.

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