Roundup: S.Korea reports 4 more MERS cases, 3 deaths under criticism

June 17, 2015 5:28 am 

SEOUL, June 16 — Four more cases of infection with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) were reported in South Korea Tuesday, while three deaths were added among the confirmed cases, the health ministry said.

Three of the four new cases were confirmed positive after living a normal daily life without quarantine or monitoring, causing a harsh criticism over insufficient government response.

The three cases included patients 151, 152 and 154 who contracted the virus at the emergency room of Samsung Medical Center in Seoul from patient 14.

They were all excluded from the list of people quarantined or ordered to stay at home, Kwon Jun-wook, director-general of the health ministry's public health policy, told a regular press briefing.

The health authorities have said that those who had close contact with confirmed MERS patients within 2 meters or those who stayed at the same space with the patients had been under quarantine.

Though the three new patients stayed at the emergency room with the 14th patient, called super spreader as he has infected more than 70 people, the government failed to manage these people.

With the four new cases, the total infection rose to 154 since the first patient, or called index case, was found on May 20, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The 154th patient, 52, was estimated to have caught the virus during a visit to his mother undergoing a check up at the Samsung hospital. His sister was quarantined but he was excluded from the isolation list.

The man, serving as a public servant in the southeastern city of Daegu, went to his office as usual, participated in a dinner meeting and went to a public bathhouse before he was quarantined on Monday.

The 152nd patient, 66, was exposed to the virus at the Samsung hospital on May 27 when his wife was treated at the emergency room. His wife was ordered to stay at home, but he was excluded from the isolation list. His wife was tested negative.

Kwon said that intensive attentions were paid mainly to patients staying at the emergency room, and that others staying at the emergency ward such as caregivers were not included in the list of top priority for quarantine.

One unidentified person, living in the Gangnam district of Seoul where the Samsung hospital is located, defied a quarantine order. The district's health center reported it to the police to fine the person as much as 3 million won (USD2,700). The police traced the person's cell phone and took him to his home.

The number of people quarantined as potential carriers increased from 5,216 on Monday to 5,586 Tuesday. The 5,238 people were ordered to stay home while the 348 were isolated at the government-designated hospitals.

People discharged from the self-quarantine and forcible isolation went up to 3,505 on Tuesday from 3,122 on Monday.

Three patients were confirmed dead, bringing the death toll to 19 and the fatality rate to over 12 percent. Among the three deaths, two patients had no other illnesses except the MERS infection.

Of the 154 confirmed cases, 16 patients are in unstable conditions, making it possible that the fatality to go up. Excluding the dead and those discharged from hospitals, 118 patients are under treatment.

Three MERS patients were discharged from hospitals as they completely recovered, bringing to 17 the total number of patients discharged. (PNA/Xinhua)

FFC/SSC

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