Park urges transparent release of MERS information

June 17, 2015
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, talks with health care workers wearing protective gears as she visits the National Medical Center housing MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, patients in Seoul, South Korea, June 5, 2015. Sales of surgical masks surge amid fears of the deadly, poorly understood virus. Airlines announce "intensified sanitizing operations." More than 1,100 schools close and 1,600 people - and 17 camels in zoos - are quarantined. The current frenzy in South Korea over MERS brings to mind the other menacing diseases to hit Asia over the last decade - SARS, which killed hundreds, and bird flu. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, talks with health care workers wearing protective gears as she visits the National Medical Center housing MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, patients in Seoul, South Korea, June 5, 2015. Sales of surgical masks surge amid fears of the deadly, poorly understood virus. Airlines announce “intensified sanitizing operations.” More than 1,100 schools close and 1,600 people – and 17 camels in zoos – are quarantined. The current frenzy in South Korea over MERS brings to mind the other menacing diseases to hit Asia over the last decade – SARS, which killed hundreds, and bird flu. (Yonhap)

SEOUL, June 17 (Yonhap) — President Park Geun-hye called Wednesday for the release of transparent information on infections of the deadly MERS virus that occurred at Samsung Medical Center.

The hospital, one of the top hospitals in South Korea that is run by the country’s largest conglomerate, Samsung Group, is blamed for nearly half of all transmissions.

She also said it is very important to secure the list of patients or visitors who came to Samsung Medical Center earlier this month, a critical measure to ensure the virus does not spread any further. The maximum incubation period for the MERS virus is believed to be 14 days.

Medical experts said the disease does not spread through the air and is contagious only when people have close contact with patients.

She said South Korea’s efforts to end the spread of the virus will receive a big boost if infections linked to Samsung Medical Center are contained.

She made the comments in a meeting with officials and experts that included the head of Samsung Medical Center during a visit to the Korea National Institute of Health in Osong, North Chungcheong Province.

Song Jae-hoon, an infectious disease expert and head of Samsung Medical Center, vowed to make utmost efforts to end the virus by closely cooperating with health authorities.

Song also said he is sorry to Park and the people that his hospital caused concerns over the transmission of the disease.

The meeting came hours after South Korea reported that another patient infected with the virus had died.

The latest fatality raised the country’s death toll to 20 since May 20, when the country’s first case of the virus was confirmed.

South Korea also reported eight new cases of the viral respiratory illness that put the total number of people diagnosed with the disease at 162 — about half of them infected at Samsung Medical Center.

The meeting came a day after Park visited a primary school and middle school in Seoul, both of which have reopened following a temporary shutdown because of the deadly virus.

Park has carried out a series of public activities to try to calm the public scare sparked by the MERS virus. She has appealed to people to return to their normal daily lives.

Currently, 124 MERS patients remain hospitalized while 18 of them are in serious condition.

Some 6,500 others were in isolation as of Wednesday for possible infection after having close contact with MERS patients.

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