Lessons from MERS outbreak in South Korea

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : September 2, 2015, 16:05 | Updated : September 2, 2015, 16:05
A 68-year-old South Korean man visited a small clinic in his hometown Asan, south of capital Seoul, as he coughed and had fever. Doctors might have diagnosed him with a simple flu or pneumonia, but he was referred to a bigger hospital to seek better medical services, then he went to Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, one of the country's biggest hospitals, in which he was confirmed to have been the index case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and dozens more were infected later.

It took nine days for the first patient to be tested positive on May 20 for the viral disease. "The biggest reason is that the patient zero was diagnosed too belatedly," Shin Sang-yop, infectious disease specialist at Korea Medical Institute (KMI), told Xinhua news agency Wednesday.

South Korea became the most MERS-contagious country outside Saudi Arabia, where the disease first emerged in 2012 and more than 1,000 cases have since been found. The MERS corona virus had infected 186 South Koreans. Of them, 36 passed away.

The total contagion number and the death toll have been unchanged for more than 40 days, but the government had yet to declare a formal end to the MERS crisis as the World Health Organization (WHO) advised the country to make the declaration four weeks, or double the incubation period, after the last infectee completely recovers. Now, only one patient, who had suffered from an immunity-weakening disease before infection, was still tested positive.

By Ruchi Singh
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