S Korea MERS outbreak ‘large and complex’

WHO says more cases should be anticipated as South Korea confirms 14th death from deadly virus.

A World Health Organization (WHO) team of experts has said that South Korea’s outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS is “large and complex” and more cases should be anticipated.

The WHO has conducted a joint review with South Korean officials and experts of the country’s response to the MERS outbreak which has infected 138 people and killed 14 of them since the first case was diagnosed on May 20.

Alex Jensen, a South Korea analyst and journalist, told Al Jazeera from Seoul that there were also reports emerging about a suspected first case involving an elementary school student who had visited what is regarded as the epicentre of the disease, Seoul’s Samsung Medical Center.

The seven-year-old boy who visited the hospital with his father on May 27 had first tested negative for MERS. A second test recorded a positive result but a third test said he did not have the disease. The boy will face more tests on the weekend.

His father was confirmed to have MERS a few days ago.

South Korea’s health ministry confirmed on Saturday the 14th death from the outbreak, with 12 new cases including that of an ambulance driver who moved a patient infected with the deadly virus.

The latest fatality was a 68-year-old woman who contracted the virus at a hospital in Pyeongtaek City, 65km south of Seoul, the ministry said.

It said all the 14 deceased had pre-existing health conditions, with the most recent fatality suffering from hypertension and hypothyroidism.

Twelve new infected patients brought to 138 the total number of confirmed cases, in the largest outbreak of the virus outside Saudi Arabia.

The new cases included an ambulance driver who fell ill after transporting a 75-year-old infected woman to Samsung Medical Center on June 7, where she died three days later.

Out of 133 people whose contacts have been traced, the largest single group of 60 people have contracted the disease at Samsung Medical Center.

The first infected patient in South Korea was diagnosed on May 20 after a trip to Saudi Arabia.

The 68-year-old man visited four medical facilities, infecting other patients and medics, before he was finally diagnosed.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera


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