Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – South Korean health authorities said today that country had gone three days without any new cases of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus.
The news came as the Health Ministry said an 81-year-old woman who contracted the disease in late May had become the 33rd fatality from the current outbreak.
The number of those infected remained unchanged at 182, it added. The number of new cases has dropped since mid-June. However, health authorities are still cautious.
At one Seoul hospital, they are monitoring developments after a MERS patient potentially came into contact with thousands of people before being diagnosed on 22 June.
The incubation period for those who could have contracted the virus from the carrier ends this week.
As of 30 June, 13 patients were in critical condition, the Ministry said. Overall, 95 patients had recovered and been released from hospital.
About 2,600 people were under quarantine at either state facilities or at home as of today, it added.
The outbreak started on 20 May when a 68-year-old man was diagnosed after returning from a trip to the Middle East.
MERS is caused by a coronavirus and is similar to SARS, which flared up in 2003, killing at least a thousand people.
However, so far the MERS virus has been far deadlier than SARS. In fact, its mortality rate is around 50 per cent compared to 10 per cent for the latter.
Despite criticism and calls for more information to be released to the public, the government of President Park Geun-hye has stuck with total privacy, refusing to release victims’ identity and even their geographic location.
Critics have slammed South Korean authorities for trying to downplay the seriousness of the outbreak (as China did during the SARS crisis).