NATIONAL

Seoul confirms first MERS infection case

By Claire Lee
  • Published : May 20, 2015 - 19:08
  • Updated : May 20, 2015 - 19:08

South Korea’s Health Ministry on Wednesday confirmed its first Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case in a patient who returned from Bahrain to Seoul earlier this month. The 68-year-old is currently reported to be in a stable condition.

The man stayed in Bahrain from April 18 to May 3 and was engaged in a farming-related business there, according to the Health Ministry. He returned to Korea via Incheon International Airport. Prior to his arrival, he had a layover in Qatar.

The patient had been asymptomatic until May 11, seven days after his arrival to Korea. He was eventually hospitalized on May 12 for symptoms including high fever and coughing. The Korea National Institute of Health on Wednesday confirmed that he was infected by MERS. Since the diagnosis, the patient has been quarantined at a government-certified medical facility, the ministry said.

Although camels are suspected to be the primary source of MERS infection in humans, the exact transmission routes remain unknown. Since it was first reported in 2012, some 1,142 people from 23 countries have been infected by the virus. Among them, 465 died. Also among the infected, 97.8 percent were lived in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia and UAE.

In Asia, MERS cases were confirmed in the Philippines and Malaysia prior to the one in Seoul. Although the Korean patient was diagnosed with the infection after staying in Bahrain, no case someone contracting MERS within Korea has been reported by the health authorities.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It has been shown to spread between people who are in close contact, most probably through droplets when an infected person coughs. There is no known cure and no vaccine to prevent the virus.

However, Kim Young-taek, an official from the Health Ministry, said MERS isn’t impossible to treat. “There are ways to ease the symptoms which eventually would help one’s immune system fight the virus,” he said. “One of the most important things is to prevent any complications that may follow, including kidney failure and pneumonia.”

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)