Six cases boost South Korea's MERS total to 41

South Korea reported 6 more MERS-CoV cases today, including 2 deaths, raising the total in the country's hospital cluster to 41, according to official sources and media outlets.

Early today the country announced a MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection in an 82-year-old man whose illness was detected a day after he died. The country’s health ministry said in a statement that the man was a hospital roommate of other MERS patients and got sick with the virus while he was being treated for asthma and bacterial pneumonia, Reuters reported today.

Then later in the day officials reported five more cases, one of them fatal, raising the number of cases in the rapidly expanding hospital cluster to 41, 4 of them fatal, according to a ministry statement translated, analyzed, and posted by FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board.

Few details were available on the newest group of patients.

Earlier reports said 14 health facilities—11 hospitals and 3 small clinics—have received a confirmed MERS-CoV patient at least once. Today's Reuters report said that, of 36 cases so far, 30 are linked to a single, still-unnamed hospital.

WHO sketches out exposure patterns                                                        

The World Health Organization (WHO) today posted a statement on 15 recent cases reported from South Korea from Jun 1 to Jun 3, which provides more details on patient exposures and sheds some light on multiple health settings that are involved in the outbreak.

One of the patients, a 40-year-old man who got sick on May 20 after he was hospitalized in the same facility as the index patient, a 44-year-old man whose MERS case was detected after he returned from travel to a handful of Middle East nations. The 40-year-old man was admitted to two additional hospitals for treatment before his condition worsened and he was finally sent to a nationally designated medical center on May 30, where he tested positive for MERS-CoV the next day.

A 60-year-old man from the second hospital that the 40-year-old man was admitted to was sickened by the virus, as were two men—ages 73 and 78—from his third hospital admission.

Eleven patients included in today’s update had links to the same ward as the index patient. Five were patients on the same ward, and six visited or helped care for family members during their stays on the same hospital ward.

Five patients in today’s update are being treated at South Korea's nationally designated medical center.

All but four of the patients are men, and all patients are adults ranging in age from 39 to 78 years old. Illness onsets range from May 20 through Jun 1.

Conditions were listed for 11 patients, and one patient, a 57-year-old woman, died from her infection. The rest are listed as stable.

The WHO also said it was notified of a second death, that of a 71-year-old man who had been on the same hospital ward as the index patient. The agency had earlier included the man’s illness details in a May 30 statement that covered reports of South Korea's first 11 cases.

Doctor with massive contact list; MERS-CoV sequencing

  • A South Korean doctor infected with MERS-CoV reportedly attended several large events after he was quarantined after having suspected symptoms, Yonhap News Agency reported today, citing Seoul city government sources. He worked for a hospital in Seoul where he came in contact with an earlier MERS patient and was recently recorded as the country's 35th person to be infected with the virus. The report said the man's attendance at the events brought him in contact with more than 1,000 people.

  • The MERS virus has been sequenced in South Korea and may be uploaded to a public database soon so that researchers can compare it with earlier samples to see if there are any changes that might make it more transmissible, ScienceInsider reported today.

See also:

Jun 4 Reuters story

Jun 4 FluTrackers thread

Jun 4 FluTrackers South Korean MERS case list

Jun 4 WHO statement

May 30 WHO statement

Jun 4 Yonhap News story

Jun 4 ScienceInsider story

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