Malaysians Are Advised To Avoid Travelling To South Korea Due To MERS Outbreak

Since South Korea's first MERS case was detected on 20 May, six people have died of the disease alongside 84 confirmed cases as of 8 June 2015.

Cover image via Choi Jae-koo / Yonhap via AP

2 more deaths and 3 more MERS cases reported in South Korea

Image via AFP

South Korea's health ministry reported on today two more deaths in the country's Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, bringing the number of fatalities to 27.

The ministry also confirmed three new cases, taking the total to 172 in an outbreak that is the largest outside Saudi Arabia.

The new cases, including a patient from Seoul's Samsung Medical Center, came from among those who were already suspected of infection after coming in close contact with MERS patients, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Malaysians flood social media with an OLD REPORT of a Johor MERS death

Image via Today Online

With Thailand recording its first death from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Malaysians are getting extra cautious, to an extent that an old story has been spotted making its rounds on social media.

A 2014 report on a Johor man succumbing to MERS-CoV is going viral, which includes human rights activist Datuk Paduka Marina Mahathir sharing it on her Facebook yesterday with the status “Be careful, those planning on going for umrah…”

When it was pointed out to her that the report was from last year, Marina apologised, saying she got the story from someone else on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has advised netizens to stop spreading false news over the outbreak and death of individuals due to the virus.

19 June: First MERS case detected in Thailand

Thailand's Public Health Minister

Image via CNN

Thailand confirmed its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on Thursday, becoming the fourth Asian country to register the deadly virus this year.

Public Health Minister Rajata Rajatanavin told a news conference that a 75-year-old businessman from Oman had tested positive for MERS.

"From two lab tests we can confirm that the MERS virus was found," Rajata said, adding the man had traveled to Bangkok for medical treatment for a heart condition.

The health minister said 59 others were being monitored for the virus, including three of the man’s relatives who travelled with him to Bangkok.

Death toll rises to 24 in South Korea

Image via BBC

The disease continues to claim lives in South Korea, where officials announced a further death in the country's outbreak Friday, raising the total death toll to 24.

According to South Korea's Ministry of Health, the latest patient to die was in his 70s. A new case was also announced Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 166.

However, the number of people isolated at home and in medical facilities declined from about 6,700 on Thursday to just more than 5,900 on Friday, with more than 5,500 people so far released from the quarantine, the Health Ministry said.

It said that the number of new cases "appears to be declining" -- indicating that the outbreak could be slowing down.

16 June: Worrying death toll raises to 19 in South Korea

Image via The Star

South Korea’s health ministry reported four new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) today, bringing the total to 154 in an outbreak that is the largest outside Saudi Arabia.
Image via New York Times

The ministry also said three patients infected with the MERS virus had died, taking the death toll to 19 in an outbreak that began in May.

MERS suspect on the loose in Miri after fleeing from quarantine

Image via KRQE News

Police are looking for a Brunei woman, suspected of being infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Refusing to be quarantined, a 76-year-old suspected Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (Mers- Cov) patient fled the hospital without consent on Friday, 13 June.

Miri police chief Gan Tian Kee said the 76-year-old woman was admitted to the hospital at 9.05 am on June 6 on suspicion of being infected with MERS-CoV, following her return from performing the umrah in Mekah in May.

She had gone for the umrah on May 10 and returned on May 22. “She was admitted to Miri Hospital while waiting for the results of her phlegm test and other samples taken from her,” he said today.

On the same evening, however, her family took her away even after the medical team explained her situation to them.

A report has been lodged against her.

8 June: Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya has advised Malaysians to halt travel plans to South Korea for the time being in light of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak

As of 8 June, 6 people have died of the disease and 87 people are confirmed to have contracted the virus in South Korea since the first case was detected in 20 May. Meanwhile, more than 2,300 people have been quarantined. It is said to be the largest MERS outbreak outside of the Middle East.

A businessman, age 68, picked up MERS in the Middle East and brought it to South Korea. It was the first time MERS was in the country. And before health officials knew he had MERS, he had visited at least three hospitals and likely spread MERS to more than 20 people.

More than 1,800 schools will be closed for several days amid concerns of the spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome.

MERS, a viral respiratory infection caused by the newly-identified MERS-coronavirus and related to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), can result in severe symptoms such as fever, coughs, and breathing problems which may lead to pneumonia and kidney failure

Infographic on MERS, statistics as of 23 April 2014.

Image via Al-Rasub

MERS was first identified in humans in 2012 and is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered SARS (which killed about 800 people in 2002 and 2003). But MERS has a much higher death rate at 38%, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures.

As of June 8, more than 1,000 cases of MERS have been confirmed in 25 countries, according to the World Health Organization. There have been over 400 deaths worldwide.

MERS is in the same family of viruses as SARS as well as the common cold, but unlike SARS, MERS does not spread easily between humans. As the disease is still fairly new, researchers still do not know how MERS spreads. Although all MERS cases have been linked to six countries on the Arabian Peninsula, limited human-to-human transmission has been seen among people in close contact with patients, including health care workers. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "you are not considered to be at risk for MERS-CoV infection if you have not had close contact, such as caring for or living with someone who is being evaluated for MERS-CoV infection".

As of now, doctors can treat symptoms of MERS, such as fever or breathing difficulties. However, there is no vaccine and no specific medicine, such as an antiviral drug, that targets MERS.

In April 2014, MERS claimed its first victim in Asia in the form of a 54-year-old man from Batu Pahat, Johor who contracted the disease after returning from Mecca

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has killed its first victim in Asia, a Malaysian man who developed respiratory complications after returning from Mecca.

The 54-year-old man, from Batu Pahat, Johor, had arrived in Malaysia on March 29 after performing the umrah.

He died on Apr 13 after being admitted to the Hospital Sultanah Nora Ismail for three days, following complaints of fever, cough and breathing difficulties.

For now, the government has not imposed an official ban on travel to South Korea nor for tourists entering Malaysia yet, but Dr. Hilmi said that monitoring will be done in international airports

"If we find any tourists with high body temperatures, we will immediately draw them out to do further tests," he told reporters after launching the state level 'World No Tobacco Day' celebrations in Georgetown, Penang on Sunday.

He added that those who have just returned South Korea should report to the hospital immediately if they detect a fever or any other MERS symptoms, as the virus incubation period usually takes about three weeks

Image via AFP / Ed Jones

“Those just returning (from South Korea) but have no fever must still be alert because if within three weeks they detect any symptoms, they must report to the hospital and do blood tests,” he said.

Dr Hilmi said the Health Ministry had taken various preparedness measures for the possible spread of MERS-CoV infection. No recent infection had been reported until now.

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