WHO supports member states in its response to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) within the Western Pacific Region

News release

Since the emergence of the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case in the Republic of Korea, the World Health Organization Western Pacific Region has been on high alert, working closely with national authorities to support response efforts and prevent further spread of the virus.

To date, authorities in the Republic of Korea have confirmed 30 MERS-CoV cases with WHO, including the first (index) case in a person with a history of travel in the Middle East. All cases are linked to one chain of transmission including, 26 secondary and three tertiary cases.

On 2 June 2015, the Korean Centres for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed two deaths due to MERS-CoV. The first fatality was a 57-year-old woman, who had been treated as a suspected case and died of acute respiratory failure on 1 June 2015. Later test results came back positive for MERS-CoV. The second fatality was a 71-year-old man who was confirmed positive seven days ago and died on 1 June 2015.

Out of these secondary cases, one travelled to China on 26 May, before his diagnosis was confirmed on 29 May. He is a 44-year-old male, and is now undergoing treatment in isolation.

To strengthen response efforts, the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office established an Event Management Team, to coordinate and provide support in various areas, such as information and epidemiology, technical expertise and risk communications.

Based on evidence gathered, the MERS-CoV virus does not seem to pass easily from person-to-person unless there is close contact. There is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission. However, monitoring of the situation and contacts and information- gathering continues to better assess the risks associated with this event. Sequencing of the viruses obtained from patients in the Republic of Korea and China is also ongoing.

Consistent application of adequate infection protection control measures has been used to end transmission in previous clusters. WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry, nor are travel or trade restrictions recommended. Member states should continue with surveillance measures for acute respiratory infections and carefully review any unusual patterns.

For further information, please contact:

Mr David Koch
Public Information Officer
WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific
Telephone: +632 528 9991
Email: PIO@wpro.who.int

Ms Helena Humphrey
Risk Communications Officer
WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific
Telephone: +632 528 9986
Email: humphreyh@wpro.who.int