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Korea to declare end to MERS threat 7 months after first outbreak

South Korea is to formally declare an end to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome health threat at midnight Wednesday, more than seven months after the first case was confirmed in the country, the government said.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said the decision follows guidelines set by the World Health Organization that states an "end of transmission" can be declared 28 days after the death of the last MERS-infected patient.

The 28 days takes into account the maximum incubation period for MERS, which is 14 days, and doubling this as an extra precaution.

A person who had been suffering from cancer died from MERS-related complications on Nov. 25. He was diagnosed as having been infected by the MERS virus months earlier.

The planned announcement follows authorities downgrading the country's readiness level from "yellow" to "blue" on Dec. 1, which is the lowest alert status.

The respiratory disease, which was first confirmed on May 20, claimed 38 people, with a total of 187 people in total being infected. Thousands of people were quarantined as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of the disease, although the last new case was reported on July 4.

The ministry said that while it is declaring an end to the public health threat, it will maintain watch on overseas developments, since new cases are still being reported in Saudi Arabia and some Middle Eastern countries.

It also said the country will improve its readiness to cope with such outbreaks in the future. (Yonhap)