Emergencies preparedness, response

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Republic of Korea

Disease outbreak news
21 July 2015

Situation in the Republic of Korea

Between 18 and 21 July 2015, the National IHR Focal Point of the Republic of Korea notified WHO of no additional cases of infection and no new deaths related to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Additional information on the outbreak in the Republic of Korea

To date, a total of 186 MERS-CoV cases, including 36 deaths, have been reported. One of the 186 cases is the case that was confirmed in China and also notified by the National IHR Focal Point of China.

The median age of the cases is 55 years old (ranging from 16 to 87 years old). The majority of cases are men (59%). Twenty-six cases (14%) are health care professionals. To date, all cases have been linked to a single chain of transmission and are associated with health care facilities.

Detailed information concerning MERS-CoV cases in the Republic of Korea can be found in a separate document (see related links).

Public health response

The government of the Republic of Korea continues to implement intense case and contact management activities. As of 21 July, 5 contacts are being monitored.

Global situation

Globally, since September 2012, WHO has been notified of 1,368 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at least 490 related deaths.

WHO advice

Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

Infection prevention and control measures are critical to prevent the possible spread of MERS-CoV in health care facilities. It is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV early because, like other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of MERS-CoV are non-specific. Therefore, health-care workers should always apply standard precautions consistently with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis. Droplet precautions should be added to the standard precautions when providing care to patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection; contact precautions and eye protection should be added when caring for probable or confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection; airborne precautions should be applied when performing aerosol generating procedures.

Until more is understood about MERS-CoV, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons are considered to be at high risk of severe disease from MERS‐CoV infection. General hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing, should be adhered to.

WHO remains vigilant and is monitoring the situation. Given the lack of evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission in the community, WHO does not recommend travel or trade restrictions with regard to this event. Raising awareness about MERS-CoV among travellers to and from affected countries is good public health practice.

Public health authorities in host countries preparing for mass gatherings should ensure that all recommendations and guidance issued by WHO with respect to MERS-CoV have been appropriately taken into consideration and made accessible to all concerned officials. Public health authorities should plan for surge capacity to ensure that visitors during the mass gathering can be accommodated by health systems.

Due to the steep decline in case reporting, Disease Outbreak News concerning MERS-CoV in the Republic of Korea will no longer be published on a bi-weekly basis (on Tuesdays and Fridays). Future DONs will report additional cases should they arise.