China has first MERS case as Korean cluster grows further

China confirmed its first imported MERS-CoV infection, in a 44-year-old business traveler who is part of a rapidly growing cluster of cases in South Korea, most of them in the hospital setting.

In addition to the traveler who is hospitalized in China, South Korean health officials have announced 4 more MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) illnesses since yesterday, raising the country's total number of cases to 12.

And in the country replacedas the MERS hot spot—at least for now—Saudi Arabia's health ministry today announced three more cases.

First imported case for China

The World Health Organization (WHO) said today in a statement sent to journalists that China notified it of a lab-confirmed MERS-CoV case, the country's first detection of the virus. It added that the patient is a South Korean man in his mid-40s who traveled to Guangdong province from South Korea through Hong Kong on May 26.

The man is hospitalized in isolation at a Huizhou hospital, where he is in stable condition.

The WHO said local health officials are tracing all of the man's known contacts, and Guangdong province's health commission has sent an expert team to Huizhou to investigate and collect samples. The agency added that Hong Kong authorities are tracing contacts the man had during his stopover there.

According to earlier reports, the man is related to two South Korean MERS patients and had visited them in the hospital. Though he was considered a high-risk contact and started having a fever on May 19, he ignored medical advice and left the country. South Korea asked China to quarantine the man and said they would share a list of 166 people who flew with the man.

Chinese health officials said 38 known contacts have been identified, and so far no other infections have been detected, Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported today. The story quoted a Guangdong health official who said the patient had taken buses, stayed in hotels, and attended conferences before he was placed in isolation.

Hong Kong response

The man arrived in Hong Kong on an Asiana Airlines flight with 158 passengers on board on May 26, according to a statement today from the region's Centre for Health Protection (CHP). It added that an investigation found that 29 passengers sat within two rows of the man.

So far 18 of the 29 passengers have been located, and the CHP is arranging for them to be placed in quarantine. It said the other 11 have left Hong Kong and that the CHP has alerted relevant authorities.

Contact tracing includes two legs of a bus trip, plus a car ride, that the man took from Hong Kong's airport to his final destination in Huizhou.

The CHP put 11 other contacts, mainly from the non-flight transportation exposures, under medical surveillance. Four had mild respiratory symptoms but tested negative for MERS-CoV.

Four more Korean cases

Meanwhile, health officials in South Korea reported 4 more MERS-CoV cases, raising the country's total so far to 12, according to official and media sources.

The CHP said in its Korea update that the eighth case-patient is a woman who worked in an outpatient clinic that saw the index patient before he was admitted to the hospital on May 15, and that the ninth is a patient who was hospitalized on the same ward as the first patient.

In a separate statement, the CHP said the 10th and 11th infections are both in hospital patients who were being treated on the same ward as the index patient.

The traveler whose infection was just confirmed in China is reflected in South Korea's total, because he was exposed to the virus in his home country.

Saudi Arabia reports 3 more illnesses

In a statement today, the Saudi Arabia's Minister of Health (MOH) said three newly confirmed MERS-CoV case-patients include two people from Hofuf in eastern Saudi Arabia, and one from Taif, located in the southwestern region.

One of the Hofuf patients is a 27-year-old female foreigner, and the other is a 70-year-old Saudi man. Neither is a health worker, and both are hospitalized in critical condition after contact with a MERS case in the community or a healthcare setting.

In recent weeks several MERS-CoV cases have been reported in Hofuf, including four that were thought to be part of a family cluster.

The patient from Taif is a 74-year-old Saudi man who had contact with an earlier suspected or confirmed case. He is in stable condition.

Saudi Arabia's MOH also announce that an earlier announced patient has recovered, a 30-year-old Saudi man from Hofuf.

Today's new cases lift Saudi Arabia's overall total from the disease to 1,010 cases, which include 442 deaths. The MOH said 561 people have recovered from their infections.

See also:

May 29 Xinhua report

May 28 CIDRAP News story "South Korean MERS cluster grows; Saudi Arabia reports case"

May 29 CHP statement on contact tracing

May 30 CHP statement on 10th and 11th patients

FluTrackers South Korea MERS-CoV case list

May 29 Saudi MOH statement

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