By Jung Min-ho
Health authorities reported no additional cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) for a third consecutive day Tuesday, a further sign of a slowing of the outbreak.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare, however, reported one more death from MERS, bringing the toll to 33 and raising the fatality rate to 18.1 percent.
The deceased was an 81-year-old female patient, who had suffered from cerebral infarction prior to diagnosis with MERS. She contracted the virus from Korea’s 14th patient at Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul on May 27.
The number of people diagnosed with the illness remained at 182. With two people newly discharged from hospitals, the number of full recoveries rose to 95.
A 68-year-old woman and a 66-year-old man were the latest people to have recovered from MERS. The ministry said they were treated mainly with antibiotics at hospitals.
Despite the indication that MERS may be easing, the ministry did not make any predictions about how the situation will develop, perhaps because many of its assessments about the disease have later turned out to be wrong.
Most MERS fatalities (30 out of 33) involved elderly people or those with underlying health problems, the ministry said.
The death toll, however, could rise further because 13 out of the 54 patients currently under treatment are in an unstable condition, according to the ministry.
A total of 2,638 people were quarantined, mostly at their own houses, as suspected MERS patients as of Tuesday, down 44 from the previous day.
The situation in the Samsung Medical Center, an epicenter of a half of all cases, appears to be under control. But some other hospitals, including Hallym University Hospital, Kangdong Sacred Heart Hospital and Konkuk University Medical Center in Seoul, are still under special monitoring, the ministry said.
Over the past two weeks, ministry officials counseled 923 MERS patients and their families as part of a support program. The ministry noted that 41 percent of the families of the deceased said they suffer from depression and insomnia.
Since the country reported its first MERS case on May 20, nearly 16,000 people have been subject to quarantine with 13,354 released from isolation after showing no symptoms of the disease for more than two weeks.
MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Typical MERS symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.