WHO says MERS spread can be contained, decrease could come soon

by KangYeonbae posted Jun 14, 2015


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Strain of virus found in South Korea is the same as was observed in the Middle East, WHO says


The strain of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea is essentially the same as that in the Middle East, a World Health Organization (WHO) doctor said on June 9.

Dr. Peter Ben Embarek also noted that the current cases in South Korea are all traceable to the first person infected, and predicted the spread could be halted by interrupting the infection chain.

Ben Embarek gave his explanation at a June 9 press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

“All the cases are still linked to the same chain of transmission,” he said.

“We can expect to see further cases in the coming days, and that will happen until everybody that has been infected has not had the opportunity to transmit it to other people,” Ben Embarek explained.

“So as soon as everyone has been identified as cases and isolated immediately, then we should see a decrease in cases,” he added.

Ben Embarek also predicted some infections could occur in local communities outside of hospitals.

“We would not be surprised if we see a few cases coming up from the community,” he said.

Observing that patients in South Korea customarily confirm diagnoses by visiting two or three hospitals, Ben Embarek attributed the virus‘s current spread to the large number of infected hospitals. In particular, he noted reports of some 3,000 cases of contact with MERS at 30 hospitals in the country.

“Again, with that amount of hospitals involved and with that amount of contacts being followed, that involves a lot of people and a lot of interactions,” he noted, suggesting a further spread may lie ahead.

“Everything is being done to trace every and all cases that have been in contact with the patient [in South Korea],” he said.

Regarding the possibility of a mutation in the MERS virus in South Korea, Ben Embarek said the South Korean strain was fundamentally no different from cases reported in the Middle East.

The WHO sent a team of investigators, including assistant director-general Keiji Fukuda, to conduct an on-site inspection in South Korea.

WHO director-general Margaret Chan said the same day that she believed South Korea would control the virus’s spread.

The WHO has not issued an advisory recommending against travel to South Korea.


By Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter


Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]



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