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MERS Virus Continues to Take Victims in South Korea as Cases Surface in Europe

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Public health officials continue to announce deaths resulting from MERS, despite South Korean healthcare workers claiming the virus has “peaked.” The government announced eight new cases and another death, bringing the total number of fatalities to 20.

More than 6,500 South Koreans remain in government-mandated quarantine, in an attempt to halt the spread of the Middle East respiratory syndrome virus, MERS for short.

On June 6, a 65-year-old man in Germany died from complications related to MERS—the first such death in Europe. The German man apparently became infected on a trip he took to the Middle East in February.

The Czech Republic is also reporting a potential case of MERS. A 25-year-old man came back from a hiking trip in South Korea with flu-like symptoms, a sign of the MERS virus. He is currently in an isolation ward awaiting test results.

MERS is a disease which attacks a victim’s lungs and breathing tubes and worldwide has killed between 30 and 40 percent of those infected with it.

It was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and top scientists believe it originated in Jordan earlier that same year. Officials from the World Health Organization say that the virus may have begun with camels, then moved from camels to humans.

Tests have shown that three in the United States have been infected with MERS, all in 2014. Two were healthcare professionals who worked in Saudi Arabia, and the third was an Illinois businessman who came in close contact with one of the infected health workers.

Although some Asian countries have put advisories and restrictions on travel to South Korea, the United States has yet to take any steps in that direction. Many Americans are canceling trips to the Republic of Korea nonetheless, and the slow-down in tourism is hurting the South Korean economy.

Earlier this month, a committee from the World Health Organization was sent to South Korea to analyze the public health response and gather information on the virus.

“The Committee expressed its assessment that this outbreak is a wakeup call and that in a highly mobile world, all countries should always be prepared for the unanticipated possibility of outbreaks of this, and other serious infectious diseases,” the team said in a statement.

In the same statement, however, the group advised against the United Nations giving the situation a high alert level.


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