CDC raises travel alert for S. Korea over MERS threat
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
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
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.