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MERS-infected S.Korean doctor contacts thousands in capital Seoul

Source: Xinhua

Updated: 2015-06-05

SEOUL, June 5 (Xinhua) -- One doctor in South Korea, infected with the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), had contacts with thousands of unspecified individuals in capital Seoul, boosting fears for an exponential increase in contagion.

The Seoul metropolitan government said in a statement on Thursday night that a 38-year-old doctor at a hospital in Seoul had contacts with thousands of people for three days until he was quarantined on May 31.

The doctor, who treated the 14th MERS infectee on May 27, began to show a slight symptom of the viral disease, like coughing, on May 29 when he treated patients though he was required to stay at home for self-quarantine.

On May 30 when he had a mild fever, he participated in a symposium for three hours from 9 a.m. at his hospital and went outdoors for dinner with his families at a restaurant before joining an event attended by 1,565 people.

Though he had high fever, coughing and phlegm on May 31, he joined the symposium at his hospital for an hour and visited a fast food restaurant before going home.

From 9:40 p.m. on May 31, the doctor began to be put under quarantine at a hospital. A day later, he was tested positive for the MERS.

The number of infection case is feared to increase exponentially as the doctor strode down the street without any hindrance though he was put under self-quarantine.

It indicated a blunder in the government's management of those under self-quarantine. The number of those put under self or institutional quarantine jumped from 129 on May 30 to 1,667 on June 4. Among them, 1,503 people were on the self-isolation list, requiring them to stay at home during the incubation period of two weeks.

If the 1,565 people alone, who participated in the May 30 event, are added to the list, the quarantine number will top 3,200. Given the limited number of medical staffs, the management of potential MERS infectees will be harder than before.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon told an emergency press briefing that the city government secured the list of 1,565 people, saying that it planned to reach the people one by one overnight and ask them to be put under voluntary quarantine during the latent period of two weeks.

The city government had yet to secure the list of the symposium participants and indentify how many people the doctor had contact with when he wandered across the capital Seoul. The city planned to make public the map of his movement for three days through May 31.

The mayor said that a city government official got to know the MERS-infected doctor's outside activity during the meeting convened by the health ministry on Wednesday night.

The city called on the central government to make public such facts and share information on his outside activity, but the central government failed to respond to the call. So, the city disclosed the facts Thursday night, Park said.

Public distrust deepened over the government's response as one more MERS infection was confirmed after death. An 83-year-old man passed away Wednesday, before he was confirmed positive for the MERS on Thursday night.

He was hospitalized for the asthma and pneumonia at a hospital in Daejeon, a city in central South Korea. He was isolated from May 30 as the man shared a room with another MERS infectee.

It was not the first confirmation case after death. The 57- year-old woman was tested positive for the disease after her death on Monday.


Link: China's Central Government / World Health Organization / United Nations Population Fund / UNICEF in China

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