China Issues MERS ‘High Alert’ as Number of Cases in South Korea Rises

South Korea Announces First Two MERS Deaths
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

China has taken steps to increase the national health warning regarding South Korea’s deadly MERS outbreak as the South Korean government announced new MERS-related deaths this Monday.

This makes China the latest in a series of Asian countries surrounding South Korea, including Taiwan and Singapore, which have put either severe restrictions or major warnings on travel to and from the place of the new outbreak.

A total of 16 South Koreans have died from the disease since the outbreak last month. Doctors know for sure that about 150 have been infected, and of those, 120 are currently undergoing treatment.

Saudi Arabia, where the virus originated, also announced a spread of the disease; five new cases have been discovered, according to state television reports.

China announced Monday that the country has been placed on high alert in response to the first case of MERS discovered in the nation. The infected patient is not Chinese; apparently, he is a South Korean national. He is currently recovering in a Chinese hospital.

Customs agents, tourism officials, and all government workers who inspect border crossings have been told to be on the lookout for signs of the disease, in an effort to limit the spread of the virus into China.

Hospitals, too, have been told to watch for the disease’s symptoms and isolate any who may be carrying the virus.

MERS, which stands for Middle East respiratory syndrome, is a virus which kills 30 to 40 percent of those it infects by attacking a victim’s lungs and breathing tubes.

MERS spreads through close contact with those who have been infected, so hospital workers at buildings where MERS patients are being treated are particularly susceptible to catching the disease.

Health officials identified three cases of MERS in the United States in 2014. Two were in healthcare professionals who had worked in Saudi Arabia.

Doctors identified the third case in an Illinois businessman, who met with one of the two original U.S. cases. However, by the time doctors tested him, he had successfully fought off the virus.

In South Korea, the disease has brought the nation to a screeching halt. Fears of the outbreak becoming a pandemic have hit the South Korean economy, exacerbating what were already tough times for the South Korean people.

Nearly 3,000 schools were shut down in response to the virus, including dozens of universities. However, all but about 500 are expected to reopen this Monday.

Reportedly, 2,854 South Koreans remain in government-mandated quarantine and medical observation.


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