MERS outbreak in South Korea: 9 things to know

The death toll, number of confirmed infections and number of people quarantined in association with the current outbreak of the MERS coronavirus in South Korea are all on the rise.

Here are nine things to know about MERS and the current outbreak.

1. The outbreak in South Korea is the largest to occur outside of Saudi Arabia, where the virus was first discovered and is thought to have originated from camels.

2. The number of confirmed cases of the virus reached 95 as of June 9. There have been seven deaths and more than 2,800 people remain quarantined.

3. MERS is an acronym for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. It was first reported in 2012, and since then cases have been reported in more than 20 countries, including the U.S., China and the U.K. So far, the current outbreak is limited to South Korea.

4. The incubation period for MERS is usually five or six days, but can range from two to 14 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

5. Transmission of the virus is not well-understood. It has been shown to spread from person-to-person when in close, direct contact, according to the CDC. However, the World Health Organization stated in 2013 that risk of person-to-person transmission appears to be very low.

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6. The receptors that are vulnerable to MERS appear to only be present in about 20 percent of respiratory cells, so a large amount of viral material is likely necessary in order for a host to contract the infection, according to a 2013 paper published in the journal Nature.

7. A majority of the confirmed cases in the South Korean outbreak appear to cluster in hospitals.

8. The CDC is not currently recommending that Americans change their travel plans to any country due to concerns over MERS, although some governments have urged citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to the Republic of Korea.

9. Symptoms of contraction include fever, cough, shortness of breath and in some cases, gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and vomiting. These are often followed by severe complications such as pneumonia or kidney failure, according to the CDC. Of every 10 cases reported, about three to four people have died, although deaths are often linked to underlying medical conditions.

More articles about infection control:

Report deems Ebola preparedness in many hospitals inadequate: 10 things to know
Infection control lapses lead to spread of MERS, study finds
Infection control best practices for better MERS detection and population tracking

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