CNN 旭川時事英語研究会

South Korea MERS death toll rises to 16; Saudi Arabia reports 5 cases



By K.J. Kwon and Madison Park, CNN
Updated 0549 GMT (1249 HKT) June 15, 2015


Seoul, South Korea (CNN)Five new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome have been confirmed in South Korea and another person has died from the virus, the country’s Ministry of Health said Monday.

That brings 16 deaths attributed to the virus and 150 total cases.

The outbreak has sparked international concern, stalled the nation’s economy and resulted in over 100,000 canceled tourist visits to the country.

The nearly month-long situation has put Korean authorities under scrutiny for their inability to contain MERS cases and President Park Geun-hye has seen her approval ratings plummet.

But in one sign as a possible return to normalcy, hundreds of schools across South Korea re-opened to students on Monday — 440 schools remain shut due to MERS concerns. The World Health Organization had recommended re-opening schools last week.

Team sent to Busan

In a news conference Monday, the Ministry of Health announced that a special task force had been sent to South Korea’s second largest city, Busan, after learning that one of the most recently diagnosed MERS patient had visited several hospitals and clinics in the area.

“We are doing our best to stop the spread of MERS,” said the Korean minister of health. “We are analyzing the CCTV with the help of Busan police,” referring to tracking down who had been at the hospitals.

On Sunday, a 61-year-old man died in a Busan hospital with MERS.

South Korean health officials along with a WHO team said this weekend, that the outbreak was slowing, but additional cases were expected.

Saudi Arabia connection

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has recorded five cases of MERS in the past week, the official state-run Saudi press agency said Sunday, citing a weekly Ministry of Health statement. It included one death of a 73-year-old man who died in the city of Turaba and had a pre-existing condition.

The strain of coronavirus that causes MERS was first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, according to the WHO.

The man believed to be “patient zero” in the current outbreak in South Korea visited Saudi Arabia in May, along with three other Middle Eastern countries. That 68-year-old patient went from facility-to-facility near or around Seoul before getting properly diagnosed. It triggered the hospital-based transmission of MERS in South Korea.

The South Korean outbreak is the largest outside of Saudi Arabia — over 5,000 people remain in quarantine.

Gangnam hospital focal point in MERS outbreak

In Seoul, Samsung Medical Center — one of the city’s hospitals that has counted many of the nation’s MERS cases among its patients and visitors — announced Sunday that it will suspend all surgical procedures except for emergency surgery “to fully focus on responding to MERS.”

More than 50 confirmed MERS cases have been traced back to the medical center, according to the center’s website.

The medical center, located in Seoul’s glitzy Gangnam district and considered one of the most prominent hospitals in the capital, issued an apology for its handling of MERS.

“We sincerely apologize with our heads bent to the people for causing great concern as Samsung Medical Center became the center (of) the spread of MERS,” hospital President Song Jae-hoon said.

CNN’s K.J. Kwon reported from Seoul. CNN’s Anas Hamdan reported from Atlanta. Journalists Jung-eun Kim and Han Sol, and CNN’s Kay Guerrero and Khushbu Shah contributed to this report.

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