CDC raises travel alert for S. Korea over MERS threat

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY SUN HSIN- HSUAN

Af­ter two pa­tients af­flicted with MERS died in South Korea, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC) yes­ter­day raised the travel alert to the sec­ond level for the Greater Seoul area, which con­sists of Seoul, In­cheon and the Gyeonggi re­gion, ac­cord­ing to CDC Deputy Direc­tor-Gen­eral Chou Jih-haw ( ).

By June 1, an ac­cu­mu­lated 25 MERS in­fec­tions were re­ported, two of which re­sulted in the pa­tients’ deaths. This marks the first deaths since the out­break of the re­s­pi­ra­tory ill­ness in South Korea, of­fi­cials said. The vic­tims were a 58-year-old woman and a 71-year-old man with kid­ney prob­lems. Both had been in con­tact with the coun­try’s first MERS pa­tient.

Chou said that at least 19 out of the 25 MERS pa­tients in the coun­try had been in med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties and were in di­rect con­tact with the first pa­tient di­ag­nosed with the MERS virus. Around 700 peo­ple are quar­an­tined in their homes or at health care fa­cil­i­ties, how­ever, the South Korea gov­ern­ment has not re­vealed the ex­act hos­pi­tals in which the pa­tients are be­ing iso­lated.

As of June 1, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ( WHO) has con­firmed 1,154 lab­o­ra­to­rycon­firmed cases of MERS glob­ally, at least 434 of which have re­sulted in fa­tal­i­ties, of­fi­cials said.

MERS Spreads through

Close Con­tact

Ac­cord­ing

to

the CDC,

it

is not yet com­pletely un­der­stood how the MERS virus spreads. In most cases, the virus ap­pears to pass from an in­fected per­son to an­other per­son in close con­tact, es­pe­cially among fam­ily mem­bers, pa­tients and health care work­ers.

Most cases in South Korea are health care-as­so­ci­ated in­fec­tions, Chou said, adding that no po­ten­tial com­mu­nity in­fec­tions have yet been re­ported. He warned that peo­ple trav­el­ing to Greater Seoul should be at­ten­tive to per­sonal hy­giene, re­s­pi­ra­tory pro­tec­tion and hand clean­li­ness, and avoid vis­it­ing health care fa­cil­i­ties and hos­pi­tals if pos­si­ble. More­over, those seek­ing med­i­cal treat­ment should tell doc­tors about pre­vi­ous travel his­tory im­me­di­ately, es­pe­cially if they have been to South Korea within 14 days of the emer­gence of MERS symptoms.

Cen­tral Epi­demic Com­mand Cen­ter Ready to Begin

Op­er­a­tions

Ac­cord­ing to the CDC, of­fi­cials be­lieve a Cen­tral Epi­demic Com­mand Cen­ter (CECC) is still nec­es­sary, how­ever, it will be pre­pared and ac­ti­vated im­me­di­ately only if the MERS in­fec­tion ex­pands, in­clud­ing spread­ing into the na­tion, or if sus­tained com­mu­nity spread­ing oc­curs in South Korea.

CDC of­fi­cials said that the cen­ter will re­in­force in­fec­tion con­trol and pre­ven­tion at health care fa­cil­i­ties; more­over, col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the re­gion will ac­tively con­tinue so as to up­date and ad­just re­sponse mea­sures.

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