South Korea Reports 16th Death from MERS

    15 June, 2015

    South Korea has reported its 16th death from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome disease, known as MERS. South Korean health officials said on Monday that the number of MERS cases has risen to 150, including the 16 deaths.

    Jeong Eun-kyeong is the head of the country's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    She says "there are 150 confirmed patients. One hundred twenty are currently being treated, 14 have been discharged, and 16 have died. Compared to Sunday, there are five new cases, four discharged patients, and two deaths. One hundred three patients are in stable condition, and 17 are unstable."

    Hospital workers and visitors wear masks to guard against MERS at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea, June 2015. (AP PHOTO)
    Hospital workers and visitors wear masks to guard against MERS at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea, June 2015. (AP PHOTO)

    All of the infections have taken place in South Korean hospitals or medical centers. Officials say those who have died had other health problems, such as diabetes.

    One of the largest hospitals in South Korea partially suspended operations Monday after hospital officials confirmed the presence of the virus.

    Song Jae-hoon is president of Samsung Hospital. He told reporters on Sunday that the hospital would suspend all non-emergency medical operations and no longer accept new patients.

    He said visitors are barred from the hospital. He will decide on June 24th whether to keep the suspension in place. The government announced it would send inspectors to the hospital to investigate why it failed to control the spread of the virus.

    On Saturday, a team of World Health Organization experts said the number of MERS infections was falling across South Korea. But they described the disease outbreak as "large and complex," and said more cases should be expected.

    South Korean officials hope the country's improved measures will stop the spread of the disease. They say the health crisis could end in 14 days. That is how long it will take for someone who has come in contact with the virus to become infected.

    Kwon Jun-Wook is the head of a special MERS task force in the South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare. He says his group is watching the 12 hospitals where the virus has been found. He says there is no sign of new infections of people who are not already being quarantined.

    About 5,000 South Koreans are thought to have come into contact with infected individuals. They have been forced to live apart from others, and their movements are restricted.

    The Reuters news service reported that thousands of South Korean schools reopened on Monday, but hundreds remain closed. The schools had been closed because of concerns about MERS.

    The health crisis caused President Park Gyun-hye to postpone a trip planned for this week to the United States.

    Worries about the virus have spread to other parts of Asia. Last week, the government in Hong Kong declared a "red alert," advising against non-essential travel to South Korea.

    MERS was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It can cause pneumonia and kidney failure. There is no vaccine or cure for MERS. The World Health Organization says the disease kills about 35 percent of those it infects. The South Korean Health Ministry notes that about 10 percent of those infected with it in South Korea have died.

    I'm Anna Matteo.

    This report was based on reports from VOA's Brian Hunter in Washington, Brian Padden in Seoul and Youmi Kim. George Grow adapted the report for Learning English. Christopher Jones-Cruise was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    discharge(d)v. to let someone leave a hospital or a prison

    stableadj. in good condition

    outbreakn. a rapid increase in the number of cases of a disease

    quarantine – n. the period in which people or animals are kept away from others, usually to prevent a disease from spreading

    Have people become infected with MERS in your country? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the comments section.