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Deadly MERS virus outbreak in Middle East spreads to South Korea

Last updated on March 30, 2017

Health officials in South Korea have confirmed a third case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on Thursday.

Two of the new cases are from people having contact the first infected patient.

Yang Byung-guk, director of the health ministry’s Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention said that as a precaution, authorities have isolated 64 people who are family members and medical workers treating the three patients.

Shin Hyoung-shik, an infectious disease specialist in charge of treating the patients, said the latest two confirmed cases had fevers but no sign of breathing difficulties.

“The first patient has been recovering, with less difficulty in breathing,” Shin said.

The fatality rate for MERS is between 30 and 40 percent with an incubation period of 14 days.

“The 40 percent death rate is quite high,” Choi Jun-yong, an associate professor at the infectious diseases division of Severance Hospital, told Reuters by telephone.

“If infected, patients in many cases need to have artificial respiration treatments for respiratory failures.” The ministry says they do not foresee any chance of the disease spreading because those affected have been isolated.

South Korea’s health ministry reports 1,142 confirmed cases of MERS between 23 countries with 465 deaths since May 16. Of the deaths, 97.8 percent were in the Middle East.

MERS, which is a conronavirus, was first identified in 2012. This virus is from the same family as the virus responsible for the deadly SARS outbreak (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in China in 2003. As of now, there is no vaccine or cure for the virus.


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