Tourists walk with masks at the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea, June 8, 2015. South Korea on Monday identified 23 new contagions with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), increasing the total number to 87 while deaths from the viral disease rose to six as one more death was reported. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin) (dzl)
Tourists walk with masks at the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea, June 8, 2015. South Korea on Monday identified 23 new contagions with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), increasing the total number to 87 while deaths from the viral disease rose to six as one more death was reported. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin) (dzl)

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in South Korea is expected to end in late June unless any “super spreader” emerges further, the health ministry said Monday.

Tourists walk with masks at the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea, June 8, 2015. South Korea on Monday identified 23 new contagions with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), increasing the total number to 87 while deaths from the viral disease rose to six as one more death was reported. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin) (dzl)
Tourists walk with masks at the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea, June 8, 2015. South Korea on Monday identified 23 new contagions with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), increasing the total number to 87 while deaths from the viral disease rose to six as one more death was reported. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin) (dzl)

Kwon Jun-wook, director general of the health ministry’s public health policy, held a press conference with foreign correspondents in Seoul, saying that the last day of the 14-day latent period among potential super spreaders will be June 27. If no infection cluster is added by that day, the MERS outbreak could be viewed as coming to an end.
The MERS spread was originally expected to be contained by June 12, but new cases would continue to be added “sporadically” by the end of this month as new potential “super spreaders” infecting more than eight people were discovered.
The patient zero, also called index case who began to show MERS symptoms from May 11, was quarantined from May 20. The last day of his 14-day incubation period was June 3, but since the day, another infection cluster, or a massive number of contagions, were found due to the 14th patient infected from the first patient.
The 14th patient alone infected more than 70 people at the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, which was partially closed last weekend for its failure to control and prevent the viral disease within hospitals. The index case infected 37 people at St. Mary’s Hospital in Pyeongtaek, some 60 km south of Seoul.
The second wave of epidemic was originally forecast to ease from June 12 as the last day of the two-week latent period for the 14th patient was June 12. Though the second wave showed calming signs, concerns remained about potential super spreaders.
The number of MERS infections here increased to 150 as of Monday as five new cases were identified. Among the fresh cases, only one person contracted the virus at the Samsung hospital, down from four on Sunday.
Among the super spreader potentials were the 137th patient, 55, who worked at the Samsung hospital as patient transporter. He transported patients at the hospital for nine days, even after showing MERS symptoms and infecting unspecified patients. The last day of his incubation period is June 25.
A Samsung hospital doctor, 37, treated patients at the hospital under suspicion of MERS contagion because the 138th infectee was excluded from the isolation list. The last day of his incubation period is June 24.
The 143rd patient, seen by some local media as the most dangerous potential, is a 31-year-old IT technician who was dispatched to the Daecheong Hospital in the central city of Daejeon. He was tested positive on June 13 after having contact with at least 700 people in the southern port city of Busan. The last day of his incubation period is June 27.
“The first wave (from the patient zero) ended, and the second wave (from the 14th patient) showed calming signs,” Kim Woo Joo, head of the Korean Society of Infectious Diseases who’s now working in the health ministry to contain the outbreak, told reporters.
Kim said nearly 90 percent of MERS infections here came from three super spreaders, including the 16th patient, noting that the health authorities have been focusing on preventing any super spreader from showing up further.
The infectious disease expert said that there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission in the community in South Korea as seen in Saudi Arabia, adding that there have been only cases of transmission within hospitals and between hospitals.
Kim noted that the health authorities have been taking sufficient measures to prevent contagions within hospitals and between hospitals.
Meanwhile, two more deaths were reported on Monday, bringing the total death toll to 16 and the fatality rate to 10.7 percent. The deaths were 28th and 81st patients.
The 28th patient had already suffered from diabetes, but the 81st patient had no chronic disease except bad liver.
Among the 16 deaths, 14 patients had already suffered from other illnesses. The remaining two died of the MERS though they had no other diseases.
Seventeen infectees have been in unstable conditions, leaving possibilities for a rising fatality. At least 14 patients have recovered completely after being infected as four more people were discharged from hospitals.
Among the combined confirmed cases, 17 percent was medical staffs, including doctors and nurses. Nearly half of the MERS infectees were patients who already checked into hospitals.
The MERS is a respiratory illness caused by a new type of corona-virus, similar to the SARS virus that killed more than 770 people worldwide following a 2003 outbreak. There is no known vaccine or treatment for the MERS.
The first MERS case was spotted in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The World Health Organization has reported more than 1,000 cases of MERS globally and more than 400 deaths. Enditem

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