S. Korea’s last-remaining MERS patient dies

November 24, 2015

SEOUL/SEJONG (Yonhap) — South Korea’s last-remaining Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) patient died Wednesday, five and a half months after being diagnosed with the viral respiratory disease, health authorities said.

The 35-year-old patient, who was confirmed to have been infected with the MERS virus on June 8, died around 3 a.m. at Seoul National University Hospital, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said.

It said the patient, who is the 38th person to die after contracting MERS, succumbed to complications brought on by malignant lymphoma.

“His condition deteriorated rapidly leading to his death,” the ministry said.

The male patient who had struggled with the type of blood cancer even before he caught MERS was hospitalized in early June but was discharged on Oct. 3 after he tested negative for the virus.

He was, however, readmitted eight days later because he showed symptoms of the disease that infected a total of 187 people in the country.

“After being readmitted, the patient was placed in a quarantine room, although doctors said it was highly unlikely he would transmit the disease to another person,” a health ministry official said. “He continued to test both positive and negative for the MERS virus.”

His death left South Korea with no MERS patients, six months after the first case was confirmed on May 20.

The country, meanwhile, declared a de facto end to the outbreak in late July.

Including the latest death, the fatality rate of MERS in South Korea stands at 20.4 percent, with most deaths being linked to underlying medical conditions, such as a weak respiratory system, heart and lung diseases, and cancer.

MERS, first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, reportedly has a fatality rate of over 40 percent. There are currently no vaccines or treatment for the disease.

South Korea, meanwhile, has reported no new cases since July 4, with the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the country as entering a “end of transmission” phase.

Under WHO regulations, an official end to the outbreak can be declared 28 days after the last patient is declared recovered, although in the case of South Korea, health authorities may not make a formal declaration.