Final MERS patient dies 8 weeks after his discharge

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Final MERS patient dies 8 weeks after his discharge

Korea’s last Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) patient died on Wednesday, some six months after contracting the disease, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The 35-year-old man only known by his surname Kim, or as Patient No. 80, was in the process of being treated for malignant lymphoma, a cancer that affects the immune system, when his condition worsened.

He died at 3 a.m. at Seoul National University Hospital, the ministry said.

Kim came in contact with a MERS “super-spreader” at Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul on May 27 and was quarantined on June 6. He tested positive for MERS on June 7 and was transferred to Seoul National University Hospital for further treatment on July 3.

He suffered from lymphoma when he first tested positive for MERS and had a weakened immune system.

He was discharged from the hospital on Oct. 3, two days after testing negative for the virus.

However, in an unprecedented case, Kim was readmitted to the hospital just eight days later on Oct. 11 when he showed MERS symptoms again.

Because he was not responding to cancer drugs, he was scheduled to receive radiation treatment last Saturday, but his condition worsened sharply, leading to a halt in the treatment.

“In the process of treating the patient’s underlying illness, malignant lymphoma,” a doctor said in a statement, “the [MERS] progressed, and his condition rapidly declined.”

MERS was initially brought to Korea in May by a 68-year-old man who returned from a business trip to the Middle East.

The first MERS case in Korea was confirmed on May 20, and the virus spread, infecting 186 people.

The number of people quarantined at home or in a medical facility after coming in contact with MERS patients spiked to nearly 7,000 in June.

The last new MERS patient was reported on July 6.

With Kim’s death, the total number of MERS-related deaths rises to 38. This brings the death rate of MERS in Korea to 20.4 percent, around half that seen in Middle East outbreaks.

Most MERS patients died because of underlying diseases or conditions. The most recent MERS-related death before Kim was Patient No. 152, a 66-year-old man who received a lung transplant in August after complications from MERS and died in late October.

Kim’s family initially requested an autopsy but changed their mind later.

Kim will be cremated like other MERS patients.

Before losing consciousness, Kim left a message on his KakaoTalk profile that read, “One step at a time, to home.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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