Case of imported MERS reported in Republic of Korea

Media release

9 September 2018 -- The Republic of Korea has officially reported an imported case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). This is the first case seen in the country since the end of an outbreak in 2015.

The case is a 61-year-old male who had travelled to Kuwait for business between 16 August and 6 September. He was hospitalized with fever, diarrhoea and respiratory symptoms shortly after returning to the Republic of Korea and is currently receiving treatment in isolation.

The Republic of Korea’s National International Health Regulations Focal Point reported the case to the World Health Organization (WHO) on 8 September, the same day that it was laboratory-confirmed as MERS.

While this case is unusual, it is not unexpected that MERS will occasionally appear outside of the Middle East. The risk of spread can be minimised by the implementation of rapid response measures, including adequate infection prevention and control measures in health care facilities, contact tracing and public communication. WHO is in discussion with the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) on the required response and is ready to provide further support if required.

MERS is caused by a novel coronavirus (MERS‐CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Since then, WHO has continued to monitor the disease, with more than 2200 laboratory-confirmed cases reported from 27 countries. Typical MERS symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, have also been reported. In around a third of cases, the disease is fatal.

While there appears to be a link between the disease and dromedary camels, the majority of human cases to date have occurred in health care settings. The virus does not seem to pass easily from person to person unless there is close contact, such as between a patient and someone providing care. The implementation of infection prevention and control measures are therefore critical to the prevention of MERS‐CoV in health‐care facilities.

WHO does not recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions or entry screening related to MERS-CoV.

Media contact:

Ms Liv Lawe-Davies
WHO Western Pacific Region
Mobile: +63 999 889 3974
Desk phone: +63 2 528 9992