South Korea has been battling with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) since a businessman was diagnosed of the disease in May. On Sunday, the country has yet again reported seven new cases to the outbreak that has so far killed 14 people, all of whom were elderly and those with existing medical conditions.
The seven new cases of MERS in South Korea now put the number of MERS infection in the country at 145. Three of these new cases were infected in one of the largest hospitals in the country, Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, where over 70 people have already been infected of the virus.
One of those who contracted the disease was a paramedic who helped transport an infected person to Samsung hospital on June 7. Authorities likewise revealed on Saturday that the ambulance driver who transported a patient who died three days later also contracted the virus.
Among the other new cases of MERS were one who was infected in Daeojeon and another from Hwaseong, a city located about 43 kilometers south of Seoul. Authorities have not reported any new fatalities and ten patients have already recovered and were released from the hospital.
No vaccine and cure are yet available for MERS. The disease, which has a fatality rate of about 35 percent, is particularly dangerous to those who have weakened immune system such as the elderly and those with existing ailments.
South Korea has its first diagnosis of the infectious disease on May 20 when a 68-year old businessman who has visited Saudi Arabia was found to be infected of the virus. The patient has gone to several health facilities before he was diagnosed of MERS.
The virus has since then spread at an unusually fast pace prompting the temporary closure of schools in South Korea and affecting the economy of the Asian country.
The virus has also raised fears in other parts of Asia including Hong Kong, which released an advisory last week discouraging is citizens from making non-essential travel to the South.
A mission to review the MERS outbreak led by WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security Keiji Fukuda has urged for the continued strengthening of contact tracing, laboratory testing, monitoring and quarantine to prevent the further spread of the virus.
"The mission concluded that while the outbreak that began last month has been large and complex, it is showing a similar epidemiological pattern to previous hospital-associated MERS CoV outbreaks in the Middle East, which have been fully controlled by strong basic public health measures such as infection prevention and control," WHO said in a statement.
Photo: NIAID | Flickr