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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in Korea exposed workers to high risks

05 August 2015
MERS Korea
Following an outbreak of MERS CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Coronavirus) in the Republic of Korea that started on 20 May 2015, the WHO declared as of 29 July that the last laboratory-confirmed case was reported on 4 July 2015, now 1 month ago.

The Republic of Korea’s medical facilities were woefully unprepared, and private hospitals that comprise 90% of all hospitals were refusing to treat MERS cases, leaving the problem largely to the public hospitals. 

The KHMU (Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Unions) along with the KPTU (Korean Public Services and Transport Workers’ Union) took the leadership role in drawing attention to the poor level of preparation and training of Korean healthcare workers and the failure to provide hospitals with adequate equipment. This left healthcare workers exposed to an unacceptable level of risk (see PSI news items below). 

WHO calls for strong disease control and intensified public health measures. Continued vigilance through an early detection and swift response system is essential.  Since the beginning of the outbreak, 186 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV have been reported (185 in Korea and 1 in China) and 36 patients have died from the disease.

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