South Korean MERS cluster grows; Saudi Arabia reports case

South Korea today reported two more MERS-CoV infections, lifting the nation's total to seven, and it revealed that a high-risk contact flew to China, prompting the man's hospitalization and tracing of airline passengers and other contacts.

Meanwhile, the virus has sickened one more person in Saudi Arabia and killed two more, according to reports over the past 2 days from Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH).

Hospital exposures in South Korea

The two newly announced South Korean MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases involve a 28-year-old female healthcare worker and a 71-year-old man who is a patient in the same hospital as the index patient, The Korea Herald reported today.

Yang Byung-guk, MD, PhD, MPH, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Korea CDC), said the high-risk contact was not on the monitoring list, because he did not share a room with the first patient and their rooms were at last 10 meters apart, according to the report. The Korea CDC defines "close contact" as being within about 2 meters in a room or care area with a lab-confirmed MERS-CoV patient for a prolonged period.

South Korea's first case was announced on May 20, involving a 68-year-old man who had traveled to the Middle East. Subsequent infections were detected in the man's wife, his hospital roommate, his hospital roommate's daughter, and another healthcare worker.

Officials said the man who traveled to China is the son of the index patient's roommate and had apparently visited his two sick family members in the hospital, the Herald reported, citing South Korea's health ministry. It added that the man had a fever on May 19 and left for China on May 26, despite advice from doctors that he shouldn't leave the country.

According to the report, the Korea CDC wasn't aware the man had visited his sick father and sister in the hospital and the man did not initially tell his doctor that his family members had MERS when he sought care for his symptoms on May 22.

South Korea asked China to quarantine the man and will share a list with China of 166 people who were on the man's flight, 28 of whom sat close to him, according to the Herald report.

China response

Chinese officials placed the man under observation and isolation in Guangdong province yesterday and notified the World Health Organization (WHO), Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported today. It said the 44-year-old business traveler arrived in Hong Kong on May 26 and traveled through the mainland city of Shenzhen to his destination in Huizhou, both in Guangdong province.

No other illnesses have been found in 35 of the man's known close contacts, according to Xinhua.

Saudi case, deaths

In separate statements yesterday and today Saudi Arabia's MOH confirmed another MERS-CoV infection and said two previously announced patients have died from their illnesses.

The latest case-patient is a 26-year-old woman who is a healthcare worker in Hofuf, the MOH said today. It added that she is symptomatic, is in stable condition, and had contact with a suspected or confirmed MERS case in the community or hospital.

Several MERS-CoV cases have been reported from Hofuf in recent weeks, including four reported earlier this month that are thought to be part of a family cluster.

The two deaths in earlier cases involve a 48-year-old Saudi man from Taif and Hofuf, according to MOH reports today and yesterday. It also said a 71-year-old foreign man who got sick in Hofuf has recovered from his illness.

So far the MOH has reported 1,007 MERS-CoV cases, 442 of them fatal. They agency said 560 people have recovered, 4 patients are still being treated, and 1 is on home isolation.

See also:

May 28 Korea Herald story

May 28 Xinhua story

May 26 CIDRAP News story "South Korea, Saudi Arabia confirm more MERS cases"

May 28 Saudi MOH update

May 27 Saudi MOH update

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