Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Update on South Korea

It first emerged in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012. Reports came out of Saudi Arabia about a viral illness different from the typical coronaviruses with people developing severe respiratory illness. Most had fevers, coughing and shortness of breath, while others developed gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhea and nausea or vomiting, and kidney failure. Many people have died from this virus. 

MERS-CoV may come from infected camels in the Arabian Peninsula, but more information is necessary before a direct link can be established. The virus is thought to spread from person to  person through coughing or sneezing or close contact with an infected person. The two causes in the United States that occurred in 2014 were both healthcare providers who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia.

Vaccines for this virus are not currently available, and the only protection is avoiding contact with an infected individual and taking care to keep your hands washed, along with avoiding contact with mucous membranes without first washing your hands, and disinfecting surfaces that are frequently handled.  

Recently, as many as 137 cases in South Korea have been confirmed with fourteen people dead. Park Geun-hye, the president of South Korea, postponed a summit meeting with President Obama scheduled in Washington for next week, due to mounting anxiety regarding the massive outbreak of MERS-CoV. She decided to give priority to controlling the outbreak, as the government isolated and is monitoring almost 2,900 people who were exposed to an infected individual. During a news briefing last Wednesday, Kim Sung-woo, senior secretary for public relations stated, “President Park has been mobilizing all national resources to deal actively with the MERS outbreak.” More than 2,200 schools still remain closed.


The World Health Organization has been tracking outbreaks by country. So far a majority of cases have occurred in the Arabian Peninsula  and South Korea, with the exception of a few cases in United Kingdom, the United States, and China where most were healthcare providers exposed while in the Arabian Peninsula. The CDC has not issued any travel warnings, just advised precautionary measures to be taken when visiting these areas.

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) maps and epicurves

Source: WHO | Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) maps and epicurves