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Doctor's illness pushes Korea's MERS total to 181

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As MERS-CoV activity continued to taper off in South Korea, the country reported one new infection and two more deaths today, as its lawmakers took steps to tighten up quarantine measures.

The latest developments edge the number of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases to 181 and the fatality count to 31.

And Chinese health officials said today that a South Korean business traveler whose infection was detected in Guangdong province has been released from the hospital and returned to South Korea today, Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported.

The man, who contracted the virus from his father who shared a room with South Korea's index patient, was a family contact of two people infected early in the country's nosocomial outbreak.

Doctor's infection points to PPE gaps

The newly reported case-patient is a 26-year-old male doctor at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, the hardest-hit facility in the healthcare-linked outbreak, the Korea Herald reported today.

The doctor was exposed to the virus while treating an emergency worker who took a MERS patient to the hospital, according to the report. It added that Korea's MERS total includes four doctors at Samsung Medical Center.

Insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) has played a role in health worker infections, the Herald reported, citing health officials. Protocols that were in place until Jun 17 at Samsung left workers' necks and ankles exposed.

The two latest patients who died from MERS-CoV had chronic medical conditions and cancer, according to a Korea Times report.

WHO details outbreak epidemiology

The WHO said today in an update that so far all 181 of the infections, except for the index case, are linked to a single transmission chain associated with health facilities.

The median age of patients is 55 years, with a range of 16 to 87 years, according to the update. The majority (61%) of patients are men. Twenty-five (14%) of the cases involve healthcare workers.

As of today 2,931 contacts are under monitoring, up 289 from yesterday. So far 12,203 people have completed their 14-day monitoring periods.

At the global level, the WHO said it has received reports of 1,356 MERS-CoV infections, at least 484 of them fatal. By far the largest portion are from Saudi Arabia.

Stricter quarantine rules

South Korea's parliament yesterday passed a new law to tighten quarantine measures, which could mean jail time for those who impede the process, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today.

People who lie to public health investigators about their contacts now face a fine or a prison sentence, according to the report. Under earlier laws, authorities could only fine people for withholding information.

The legislation also beefs up the government's power to restrict people's movements, allows officials to close affected facilities, and imposes fines or jail time for people who refuse to follow public health orders.

Source: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu

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