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MERS Is Back for the First Time in Three Years

A Korean man in his sixties was infected by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus after his business trip to Kuwait, which has sparked new fears of infection around the country.

The Outbreak of MERS Again in 2018

MERS broke out again in Korea in September 2018. (AFP)

On September 4th, a 61-year-old Korean man was diagnosed with MERS a day after he came back to Korea from a business trip to Kuwait. Before returning to Korea, the patient had been suffering from diarrhea and visited a hospital in Kuwait. When he arrived in Korea on September 7th, he directly headed for the Samsung Medical Center (SMC) from Incheon International Airport. The medical center checked his symptoms, isolated him from other patients, and reported him as a suspected case of MERS. Then the patient moved to the Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) and was tested positive for MERS. This was the first MERS case in three years after it originally hit Korea back in 2015 with 186 confirmed cases and 36 fatalities. Fortunately, the infected patient completely recovered and was released from quarantine on September 18th after being watched for the
incubation period for MERS for two weeks.

Fast Response from the Government
Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced the infection a few hours after it had been diagnosed. It also found that 21 people, including his wife, flight attendants, and medical staff, had had close contact with the patient. Therefore, they were isolated in their houses and actively monitored by local health center staff members, who visited them and checked their symptoms regularly for two weeks. In addition, about 400 passengers who had been on the same flight with the MERS patient were passively monitored without isolation. They were required to report their symptoms regularly to their local health centers for two weeks. From September 22nd, after the incubation period for MERS passed without additional infections, they no longer needed to be monitored and isolated. The government announced that it would offer compensation to all those who were quarantined because of MERS. There were, however, some criticisms that it was an overreaction of the government. Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon responded to the criticisms stating that the excessive response was better than a belated one which had resulted in great tragedy in 2015.

정선우  jsw5861@skku.edu

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