Although Korea continues to show progress in getting its MERS outbreak under control it is sobering to realize that South Korea is closing in on seeing as many cases in the past 7 weeks (n=179) as Saudi Arabia has reported all year (n=201).
Backing away from earlier government assurances that their MERS outbreak had leveled off, Kwon Deok-cheol, the health ministry's chief policy official told a news briefing overnight: “We are at a crossroads, whether this is going to spread further or not.” ( see Reuter’s With more MERS cases, South Korea says outbreak at crossroads).
Thus far, we are assured that all cases have links to hospital facilities, and no community acquired cases have been reported (some epidemiological investigations are still underway).
As long as that remains true, this outbreak ought to be relatively easy to bring under control. The fact that it hasn’t been yet - despite an all out effort to halt its spread - remains both a bit of a mystery and a concern.
Yesterday the WHO published an update (current through the 1st 175 cases) with accompanying charts and maps on Korea’s outbreak.
Disease outbreak news
23 June 2015
Situation in Korea
Between 20 and 23 June 2015, the National IHR Focal Point of the Republic of Korea notified WHO of 9 additional confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) alongside 3 additional deaths.
Additional information on the outbreak in Korea
To date, a total of 175 MERS-CoV cases, including 27 deaths, have been reported. One of the 175 cases is the case that was confirmed in China and also notified by the National IHR Focal Point of China.
The median age of the cases is 56 years old (ranging from 16 to 87 years old). The majority of cases are men (60%). Twenty-three cases (13%) are health care professionals. To date, all cases (excluding the index case) have been linked to a single chain of transmission and are associated with health care facilities.
Detailed information concerning MERS-CoV cases in the Republic of Korea can be found in a separate document (see related links).
Public health response
The government of the Republic of Korea continues to implement intense case and contact management activities. As of 23 June, 2,805 contacts are being monitored while a total of 10,718 contacts have been released. The downward trend of reported MERS-CoV cases seems to indicate that the containment measures put in place by the national health authorities of Korea are beginning to work.
Globally, since September 2012, WHO has been notified of 1,348 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at least 479 related deaths.