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(LEAD) MERS has little effect on number of people visiting hospitals

All Headlines 16:01 September 14, 2018

(ATTN: CORRECTS details in 8th para)

SEOUL, Sept. 14 (Yonhap) -- The number of people visiting Seoul hospitals that treat people with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has not fallen much, official data showed Friday.

A 61-year-old man was diagnosed with the disease after returning home from his visit to Kuwait on Saturday. He was rushed to an emergency room at Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul upon his arrival at Incheon International Airport and then transferred to Seoul National University Hospital in northern Seoul.

According to hospital sources, the number of patients visiting the two hospitals for checkups or treatment has decreased less than 5 percent compared with before the MERS discovery.

The number of outpatients at Samsung Medical Center inched down 4 percent Monday and 2 percent Tuesday but returned to normal Wednesday.

The number of canceled appointments at the Seoul National University Hospital where the MERS patient is currently being treated has inched around 5 percent down.

In contrast, the number of outpatients at the MERS-affected hospitals nearly halved three years ago when there was widespread health concerns.

Experts point out that the possible spread is most likely to have been contained.

Michael J. Ryan, assistant director-general of Emergency Preparedness and Response for the World Health Organization, said the South Korean government's initial response to MERS was properly done.

He further said it is very unlikely for a secondary case due to limited human-to-human transmission of MERS.

MERS is a viral respiratory disease with a fatality rate of 20-46 percent. It is caused by a novel coronavirus carried by camels and can be spread when someone is in close contact with a patient for a sustained period.

The first MERS case was recorded in Saudi Arabia, and it has since spread to other countries. As of June this year, the World Health Organization has reported 2,229 laboratory-confirmed cases.

South Korea was hit by an outbreak in 2015, resulting in 38 deaths and 186 people testing positive for MERS.

A sanitation worker disinfects an airplane of Korea Air Lines Co., which arrived from Dubai, at the airline's hangar in Incheon, west of Seoul, on Sept. 13, 2018, as part of efforts to stop the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). A 61-year-old South Korean man was confirmed on Sept. 8 to be infected with the MERS virus after traveling to Kuwait via Dubai. (Yonhap)


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