Two MERS patients died

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Two MERS patients died

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A passenger getting off a plane from Doha, Qatar, is inspected at Incheon International Airport on Monday. The number of Middle East respiratory syndrome patients in Korea reached 18 as of Monday. By Shin In-seop

Two deaths from a fatal respiratory disease from Middle East were first reported on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after the Patient No. 1, who contracted the disease from Middle East on his 16-day business trip, tested positive on May 20.

Central MERS countermeasure headquarters, tasked with preventing spread of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), announced on Tuesday morning that 58-year-old woman who died at a hospital in Gyeonggi on Monday tested positive for MERS and Patient No. 6, a 71-year-old man who has been in a critical condition, also died on Monday.

Also, infection through secondary patient has been also found for the first time in Korea.

Six more patients were added on the list on Tuesday, and the health authority said two of them contracted the disease from Patient No. 16. The number of MERS cases in Korea reached 25, third largest in the world after Saudi Arabia (1,007) and United Arab Emirates (76).

The 58-year-old woman who died on Monday, or Patient No. 25, have been treated for difficulty in breathing due to her asthma since May 11 and had contact with the first patient from May 15 to May 17. The countermeasure headquarters added that the patient had underlying conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure and Cushing's syndrome, a hyperadrenocorticism due to prolonged exposure to steroid, which may have taken a toll after she caught MERS.

The government is facing a criticism for the death since it could not find her until Monday, the day she died, which means there could have been more people who had contact with her.

Patient No. 6, who had contact with the first patient while he stayed at the same ward, tested positive for MERS on Thursday. The countermeasure headquarters also said the 71-year-old man had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had one of his kidney removed due to cancer in 2011.

"Underlying condition of [Patient No. 6] had to do with his weak immunity and respiratory disease," said his doctor, "and it is expected to have negatively affected him after he contracted MERS."

The problem is the two new tertiary infected people, who are Patients Nos. 23 and 24.

Patient No. 1 returned to Korea on May 4 and began to show symptoms on May 11, and he subsequently visited four different hospitals until he was correctly diagnosed with MERS.

The two tertiary infected patients stayed in the same hospital room with Patient No. 16 at the fourth hospital visited by the first patient. Patient No. 16 contracted diseased from the first patient at the second hospital, where most of secondary infection occurred.

Tertiary infection is considered a huge threat given that it usually means the disease was transmitted due to lax preventive measures and it suggests possible spread among people outside of quarantine coverage. The headquarters, however, said the two tertiary infections were made within medical facility, playing down possibility of spread among public.

The four other new patients were found to have caught the disease from the first patient at the second hospital.


BY KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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