WHO and Republic of Korea begin joint mission to review MERS

The epidemiological pattern of the virus in the country, its characteristics and clinical features, and public health measures implemented will be assessed

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

Source: WHO/Twitter

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Republic of Korea's ministry of health and welfare have started a joint operation to review the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS CoV) in the country. The mission began in Seoul on June 9.

The epidemiological pattern of MERS CoV in the country, its characteristics and clinical features, and public health measures implemented will be assessed during the initiative.

"Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security, who is co-leading the mission together with Dr Jong-Koo Lee, Director, Center for Global Medicine, Seoul National University, said that interactions in early discussions had been excellent," as per a news report published by WHO. “The joint mission will end its in-country visit on Saturday, June 13, 2015,” said the report.

MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. “Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause a variety of illnesses in humans, ranging from the common cold to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. They also cause a number of animal diseases,” says WHO. Typical MERS symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, have also been reported. Approximately 36 per cent of reported patients with MERS have died.

The Republic of Korea has so far reported 107 confirmed cases of MERS CoV and one confirmed case has been reported from China. The total number of deaths as of now is nine.

The initial recommendations, made by the joint mission on June 10, have been welcomed by the government. These are:

  • Infection prevention and control measures should immediately be strengthened in all facilities across the country.
  • All patients with fever or respiratory symptoms should be asked about: contact with a MERS patient; visits to a health care facility where a MERS patient has been treated; and history of travel to the Middle East in the 14 days before the onset of the symptom. Any patient with positive responses should be promptly reported to public health authorities and managed as a suspected case while the diagnosis is being confirmed.
  • Close contacts of MERS cases should not travel during the period when they are being monitored for the development of symptoms.
  • Strong consideration should be given to re-opening schools, as schools have not been linked to transmission of MERS-CoV in the Republic of Korea or elsewhere.

MERS in South Korea and China: a potential outbreak threat?

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