Over 1,300 South Koreans are now in quarantine as the country is threatened with an outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, and there are at least two confirmed deaths, official said.
The disease is believed to have spread from an individual travelling from the Middle East to South Korea, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The 68-year-old man arrived in a South Korean hospital for treatment but was not isolated immediately because MERS was not suspected by Medical doctors, according to the WHO.
Head of Public Health Policy for South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare, Kwon Jun-Wook briefed reporters on Wednesday confirming at least 30 people have been diagnosed with the virus and a further 398 were “possible infected.”
The total number of patients in Quarantine has reached 1,364 as the health authorities are implementing various methods to contain the virus from further spreading.
The believed source of the virus, the Middle Eastern man is still alive but two other have died as a result of MERS, South Korean officials have claimed.
South Korean residents have expressed their concern over the rapid spread of the virus.
“MERS is dangerous. I think if I don't take precautions, I can contract the disease, so I wear this mask for prevention," Kim Sung-taek said to Associated Press.
"In order to take off this mask soon, I think the South Korean government should focus more on this problem [MERS] and act proactively," he added
Dr Stephen Morse, an expert on infectious disease from Columbia University said the rapid spreading of the virus will need an investigation to determine if the virus mutated and became more contagious.
“The other thing is that the extent to which this has spread in Korea with the 30 cases raises questions," Morse said to ABC.
"Have the conditions for transmission been more favourable?" He added.
Morse said he believes from a medical point of view that it was highly unlikely that the virus had mutated and that previous genotypes are almost indifferent and remain very alike in both humans and animals.
"One of the problems is that there’s a lot about the epidemiology of MERS that’s poorly understood and not known at all," Morse said.
"Assuming like the cases we’ve seen so far I wouldn’t expect most of the people under quarantine are likely to be infected or show signs of disease," he added.
Symptoms of MERS vary from fever, cough, diarrhea and loss of breath. The virus generally develops in less than two weeks. MERS spreads when in close contact with a carrier of the virus either from a human or animal. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, where the virus was first diagnosed in 2012, the cause was linked with human contact with infected camels.