Korea sees first MERS case since 2015

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Korea sees first MERS case since 2015


Security guards on Sunday stand guard at the entrance to the isolation ward for infectious patients in the Seoul National University Hospital where a MERS patient was hospitalized for treatment. [YONHAP]

The government was set to hold an emergency meeting of Cabinet ministers Sunday to discuss measures to stem the spread of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) following the outbreak of the country's first case in three years.

Health authorities said Saturday that a 61-year-old man was confirmed to be infected with the lethal virus after returning from a business trip to Kuwait via Dubai. It marked the first reported case of the disease here since 2015.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon was to preside over Sunday's meeting that will also include the health minister, the interior minister, and the chief of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), as well as hospital officials and private experts.

They are expected to check the current situation and discuss steps to prevent the virus from spreading.

According to health officials, the MERS patient visited a local hospital during his stay in Kuwait for diarrhea but showed the same symptom again on his way back home. He was rushed to the emergency room of Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul upon his arrival at Incheon International Airport.

After examining him in an isolated section of the emergency room, the hospital reported him as a suspected case of MERS showing symptoms of fever, phlegm and pneumonia. He was then moved to Seoul National University (SNU) Hospital in central Seoul, where he tested positive for the disease.

The man and about 20 people who came in close contact with him, such as flight attendants, passengers, medical staff and quarantine and immigration officials, have been quarantined at home, but the number could rise, officials said.

MERS is a viral respiratory disease with a fatality rate of 20-46 percent. It is caused by a form of coronavirus carried by camels and can be spread when someone is in close contact with a patient for a sustained period.

It was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to other countries. Most people infected with MERS develop severe acute respiratory illnesses including fever, cough and shortness of breath, the CDC says. Many of them die.

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