SKorea: first MERS death, 700 in isolation

A South Korean woman in her 50s is believed to be first victim of South Korea’s Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak

SKorea: first MERS death, 700 in isolation

World Bulletin / News Desk

The death of a woman in South Korea is being investigated as the country’s first potential MERS fatality, as public alarm began to rise further Monday.

The 58-year-old patient at a hospital in Gyeonggi Province passed away late in the afternoon, according to local newspaper The Korea Times.

Hospital officials reportedly confirmed that the woman had been in direct contact with South Korea’s first ever MERS patient - a 68-year-old man who was diagnosed May 20 after returning from a trip to the Middle East. 

Officials isolated nearly 700 people on Monday in an effort to stop the spread of the potentially deadly disease within its borders after 18 people became infected over the past 10 days -- a rate of transmission that appears more aggressive than in other countries.

Earlier in the day, the official number of cases in the country reached 18 - making South Korea the worst hit nation outside the Middle East.

But no related deaths had been reported locally until Monday evening, despite the disease’s 40 percent fatality rate worldwide since it was recognized in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Like deadly SARS before it, MERS is caused by a strain of coronavirus.

The South Korean government has struggled to get a grip on the outbreak, with President Park Geun-hye conceding Monday that the authorities’ initial response was insufficient.

While she was joined by Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo in vowing to do everything possible to contain MERS, nearly 700 people are being kept isolated as an exit ban has been placed on anyone thought to have come into contact with the disease.

The travel restriction follows last week’s trip to China - against medical advice - by a 44-year-old South Korean man to China, where he is receiving treatment after testing positive for MERS.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Haziran 2015, 16:06