While MERS in South Korea remains a hospital-centric problem, news emerging this morning on some of the recent cases and their potential exposure of the public remind us that the risk of seeing community acquired cases has not passed.
The following report from Xinhua News details two recent cases (#137 & #138), both of whom worked at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, and both of whom apparently continued to have contact with the public after developing symptoms.
The patient transporter, 55, had done his job at the hospital for nine days after showing MERS symptoms, fueling worries that the 137th male patient could have become a new "super spreader." He caught the virus after having been exposed to the 14th patient, the second super spreader following the patient zero.
The 138th patient, tested positive on Saturday, was belatedly found to be a Samsung hospital doctor who treated patients until June 10 when the doctor was put under quarantine. The doctor could have infected many patients while treating them. The health authorities had yet to figure out how many people the doctor had contact with.(Continue . . . )
Adding to these concerns, patient #145 was apparently a medic aboard the ambulance which transported case #76. The ambulance driver (case #133) was diagnosed on the 12th.
Both are believed to be 4th generation transmissions.
Although St. Mary's Hospital in Pyeongtaek was initially the epicenter of the outbreak, producing 36 infections, it was closed in late May. Since then Samsung Medical Center (SMC) in Seoul has become the new focal point of infection with 72 cases.
Faced with a mounting case count - not to mention a public relations disaster - today SMC announced a partial shutdown of their hospital. This from VOA News.
June 14, 2015 6:19 AM
One of South Korea's largest, most prestigious hospitals in the capital, Seoul, has partially suspended operations after the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome took foothold in the facility.
Samsung Hospital president Song Jae-hoon told a televised news conference on Sunday that the hospital would suspend all non-emergency surgeries and not accept new patients. He said no visitors will be allowed, and added that he would decide on June 24 whether to continue the suspension.
Meanwhile, in Slovakia, health officials are testing a Korean businessman who flew in from Korea on June 3rd and developed symptoms in the past few days.
This from AFP's round up report.
As the outbreak continued to expand, a South Korean man thought to have contracted MERS was hospitalised in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Saturday.
The 38-year-old reportedly arrived in Slovakia on June 3 and works for a subcontractor of Seoul carmaker Kia, which has a plant in the central European country.
The man did not appear to have had contact with patients or to have visited venues where infections were reported at home, Seoul's foreign ministry said Sunday.
"He said he had not visited any hospital before leaving for Slovakia," the ministry said in a statement, adding he contacted the embassy in Slovakia on Saturday as he was developing symptoms such as fever.
We are currently awaiting test results, and while this patient's history isn't particularly suggestive of MERS exposure, public health authorities in Slovakia are understandably treating this case with an abundance of caution.
Lastly, although it doesn't yet appear on the Korean CDC website, media sources in Korea are reporting a 15th fatality from this outbreak involving a patient how traveled to Busan after being exposed at Samsun Hospital in Seoul.