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S. Korea, WHO Downplay MERS Spread
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S. Korea, WHO Downplay MERS Spread

Experts from the World Health Organization and South Korea on Saturday downplayed concerns about the MERS virus spreading further within the country, which recorded its 14th fatality and 12 new infections, but said that it was premature to declare the outbreak over.
After a weeklong review of the outbreak, a panel of experts told a news conference that there was no evidence to suggest the virus is spreading. The outbreak has so far been occurring only in hospitals, among patients, family members who visited them and medical staff treating them.
The virus has spread at a pattern similar to previous outbreaks in the Middle East, and the sequencing studies of samples from South Korea show no signs that the virus has increased its ability to transmit between humans, said WHO Assistant Director Keiji Fukuda, reports AP.
While the infections seem to be stagnating, the South Korean government must continue to maintain strong control measures, such as closely monitoring suspected patients and preventing them from traveling, because it’s still early to declare the situation over, he added.
Fukuda said that overcrowded emergency rooms and hospital wards might have contributed to a wider-than-expected transmission of the virus that usually spreads poorly between people. South Korea’s habits of “doctor shopping” - visiting multiple facilities to treat the same infection - and the custom of having many friends and family members visiting hospitalized patients might have also facilitated the spread, he said.
Fourteen people have died and nearly 140 have been diagnosed, including 12 new infections Saturday, with the syndrome since last month in the largest outbreak outside Saudi Arabia. About 2,900 schools and kindergartens were closed and 3,680 people were isolated as of Friday after possible contacts with those infected.

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