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MERS-CoV Infection in Republic of Korea (Update)

15 Jun 2015

The National IHR Focal Point for the Republic of Korea notified WHO of a further 62 confirmed cases (including 6 deaths) of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) between 8-12 June 2015. The total mumber of cases reported to WHO now stands at 126, including 11 deaths and the single case reported in Hong Kong.

The majority of new cases reported are male (59%) with ages ranging between 16-84 years. The authorities have now identifed 44 health facilities in the country involved in the outbreak.

Initial analysis of coronaviruses from this outbreak does not indicate that a more transmissible virus is circulating in the Republic of Korea.

Advice for Travellers

The risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains extremely low and the risk to travellers to the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding countries remains very low.

Although the source of the virus and the mechanism of transmission is unknown, it would be prudent to try to reduce the general risk of infection while travelling by:

• Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.

• Frequent handwashing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.

• Adhering to food safety and hygiene rules such as avoiding undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables unless they have been peeled, or unsafe water.

• People at high risk of severe disease due to MERS-CoV should avoid close contact with animals when visiting farms or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating. For the general public, when visiting a farm or a barn, general hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals should be adhered to.

• People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands) and to delay travel until they are no longer symptomatic.

Travellers to the Middle East who develop symptoms either during travel or after their return are encouraged to seek medical attention and to share their history of travel.

Advice for Healthcare Professionals

Consider the possibility of MERS-CoV infection in travellers with fever, cough, shortness of breath, or breathing difficulties, or other symptoms suggesting an infection, and with a recent history (within 14 days) of travel in the Middle East.

If a diagnosis of MERS–CoV infection is considered possible, apply infection prevention and control measures recommended by WHO, or outlined in national guidance, and refer the patient to a special infectious disease unit for further investigation.

Further information on MERS CoV