Korea MERS cases at 180; studies note outbreak patterns

Friday, June 26, 2015
By Paul Martin

Lisa Schnirring
Jun 25, 2015

One more infection pushed South Korea’s MERS-CoV total to the 180 case mark today, as the country took new steps to limit the spread at hospitals and researchers shared more epidemiologic insights, especially on incubation period and the role of superspreading.

The country reported two more deaths, including in a caregiver who visited several health facilities, lifting the outbreak’s fatality count to 29. And three studies today highlight transmission patterns, including “superspreading” events.

Tracking caregiver’s contacts
The latest MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) illness was detected in a patient in a hospital in Busan who had shared a room with an earlier confirmed patient, the Korea Herald reported today.

The two patients who died from their infections were a 65-year-old man and a 70-year-old woman who worked as a caregiver and was exposed to a MERS patient at Kyung Hee University Hospital in Seoul, which she visited while caring for a man who was her client, the Korea Times reported today.

According to the report, she wasn’t on the contact list, because the man she took care of didn’t tell health officials she went with him to the hospital. The woman’s MERS-CoV infection wasn’t detected until 12 days after her symptoms started, and she died 2 days after her illness was confirmed.

In the 8-day interval between her symptom onset and the start of monitoring, she visited four hospitals, an Asian medicine clinic, and four pharmacies, according to the Times.

South Korea’s health ministry added six more facilities to its list of health sites affected by MERS-CoV, most of them apparently linked to possible exposure from the woman, according to a list posted by Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP). In the statement, the CHP asked members of the public who visited the locations on certain dates to contact its personnel on a telephone hotline.

The number of contacts on South Korea’s monitoring list dropped by 461 today to 2,642, according to an update on the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Western Pacific regional office Web site.

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