MERS cases increase in South Korea but risk for travellers remains low

With the diagnosis of 23 new cases of the severe respiratory MERS coronavirus, the total number of cases since the outbreak began with the return of an infected traveller from the Middle East has reached 87 cases with 6 deaths. Seventeen of the 23 new cases are associated with exposure in the emergency room of the Samsung hospital where a person with active infection was being treated. All the cases had direct or indirect contact with MERS patients in hospital settings. At least 25 hospitals and clinics have reported cases.

As a precautionary measure, and in response to public concern, South Korean authorities have ordered nearly 2,000 schools closed nationwide although there is no sign of increased person-to-person transmission of this virus.

Over 2,300 people were under quarantine as of Sunday, some in healthcare facilities but most at home.

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Health authorities have stated that there was no reason to believe that the virus would significantly spread further in the country because all the cases have been hospital-associated. Virus transmission has occurred only to people who were hospitalized at the same time as person with active infection or visiting emergency rooms where there was a person with active infection. There has been no case of an infection in any other social settings. The risk for travellers is very low.

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