The so-called big-five hospitals have successfully managed to contain the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) from spreading as the country saw its first MERS infection in three years.
MERS is a viral respiratory disease with a fatality rate of 20 to 46 percent. The condition comes from a coronavirus carried by camels and is highly infectious for a sustained period. This is the first case of MERS diagnosed in Korea since 2015 when an outbreak killed 38 people.
According to the KCDC (Korea Center for Disease Prevention and Control), the man was coming back from a business trip to Kuwait from Aug. 16-Sept. 6 and returned home through a United Arab Emirates flight on Friday. The patients had visited a local hospital in Kuwait for diarrhea symptoms. However, after showing the same signs at Incheon International Airport, authorities rushed the man to the emergency room of Samsung Medical Center (SMC).
Upon arrival, the hospital put the patient in an isolated section of the emergency room and reported him to the health authorities as a suspected case of MERS. Afterward, SMC transferred the patient to Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH), which operates a nationally designated quarantine hospital, where he tested positive for the disease.
To stop any further panic or confusion, both hospitals released immediate statements.
“The medical staff that treated the patient wore proper protective equipment and is now quarantined for safety,” the hospital said. “Also, since the patient was placed in an isolation ward as soon as he arrived there were no other patients that had any contact with the MERS patient.”
SMC had previously mishandled the MERS crisis in 2015 after an infection outbreak occurred at the hospital and became the second epicenter for the MERS spread. During that time, the hospital received criticism for its inadequate infection control and prevention. The hospital is currently operating without any problems, the hospital added.
SNUH also confirmed that the MERS infected patient was in total quarantine.
“Our hospital is pleased to have contained the situation in advance and prevent unnecessary infections,” a hospital official said to Korea Biomedical Review. "Since the patient is hospitalized in an isolation ward, there is no fear of additional infection to other patients.”
As the hospital starts its outpatient treatment on Monday, it may be somewhat cluttered, but the hospital is preparing to lower the inconvenience of other patients and visitors, he added.