• World Health Organization: the MERS virus in South Korea is not a global threat

    June 22, 2015

    The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the viral shedding of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea was important, but not a global crisis, reported Reuters the week before. Eight new cases of the disease have been reported in the recent days.

    162 people were infected with the virus and 20 people died in the first major viral shedding of MERS outside Saudi Arabia.

    The virus came to South Korea after a Korean adult returned from a trip to the Middle East in early May, and the WHO reported an outbreak of new cases was expected, although it seemed that the number of infected people was decreasing.

    The members of the emergency committee of the WHO unanimously indicated that MERS in South Korea was not a threat to public health worldwide. Otherwise, coordinated international actions would have had to be organized.
    “The problem is of great importance,” said the WHO. “In a world with great mobility the states have to be prepared for the expected possibility of such cases, as well as other serious infectious diseases.”

    The organization added that there had been no evidence that the viral shedding was easy and therefore it was not necessary to introduce restrictions on travel to and from the country.

    The last eight new cases were more than four and five on the two days before that, while every day the week before that marked more than 10 new cases – the global trend seemed decreasing.

    Currently more than 6500 people are under quarantine in South Korea, and the government received criticism for its initial underestimation of the outbreak in the country. “Now all measures to try to stop viral shedding are taken. It is very impressive,” said Keiji Fukida, who was leading the team of the WHO experts, who visited the country last week.

    Authorities reported that 19 people diagnosed with MERS, have recovered and have now been discharged from hospitals.

    The latest victim of the disease in South Korea was a 54-year-old woman who suffered from bronchiectasis and high blood pressure. Most deaths until now have occurred in people who had pre-existing diseases or elderly people.

    All known cases of infection occurred in hospitals. Three hospitals were partially closed and two prohibited medical staff and patients to leave the hospital.

    MERS is caused by a coronavirus, similar to the one that led to the worst outbreak of SARS in China in 2003. The majority of infections and deaths have taken place in Saudi Arabia, from 2012 onwards, were more than 1,000 people have been infected, while the victims came to   454.