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Another Samsung doctor contracts MERS

Another Samsung Medical Center doctor was found to have been infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome, raising questions over measures to protect medical staff treating patients with the deadly virus, health officials said Friday.

The Health Ministry said a 26-year-old doctor caught the virus while treating the 135th patient -- an emergency worker who was infected while taking a MERS patient to the hospital. 


Park Chang-il, director of Konyang University Hospital in Daejeon, hugs the medical staff after the hospital reopened Friday. (Yonhap)
Park Chang-il, director of Konyang University Hospital in Daejeon, hugs the medical staff after the hospital reopened Friday. (Yonhap)

As of Friday afternoon, one additional case and two more deaths were reported, bringing the total confirmed cases to 181 with 31 deaths. The fatality rate reached 17.1 percent. Of the infected, 35 patients are hospital-related workers, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the total cases. Four of them are SMC doctors, the authorities said.

The ministry said that further spread by the latest confirmed patient is unlikely as the doctor has been isolated since June 17.

The insufficient protective measures for medical staff is suspected to be the cause, they said.

“Until June 17, the protective clothing of SMC staff had apparently been insufficient. The ministry has reinforced the measures since then,” the quarantine officials said.

While the government has recommended the medical facilities to provide D-level protective equipment for medical staff, SMC only provided protective clothing called VRE -- which leaves the neck and ankles exposed -- until June 17, they added.

As more and more medical staff are being exposed to the virus while treating the MERS patients, fresh concerns are growing over staff shortage at MERS-hit medical facilities.

At a public hospital in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, 18 staff have been quarantined and 39 other workers are in self-isolation after a nurse was confirmed with MERS.

Meanwhile, the 10th MERS patient who was being treated in China has fully recovered and left the hospital, the Health Ministry said.

The 44-year-old caught the virus last month from his father who was infected from the very first MERS patient at a local hospital.

Being unaware of his symptoms, he left for Guangzhou on a business trip via Hong Kong on May 26. Three days later, he was diagnosed with MERS and hospitalized.

The patient’s medical cost was shouldered by the Chinese government, the authorities said.

The Korean government has also covered the treatment cost for a Chinese who was infected here.

The returning date of the Korean patient will be kept confidential, citing privacy, they added.

Also, two MERS-hit hospitals in Daejeon were cleared from the cohort isolation measures earlier in the day, the city said. More than 75 patients and medical staff have been isolated in each hospital since June 5 after several cases were confirmed at the medical facilities.

By Lee Hyun-jeong (