North Korea calling for border checks caused by alarm over an epidemic of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea spread.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has commanded that everything to be done to halt the outbreak which began two weeks ago, brought into the country by a 68-year-old man who visited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the countries with the most MERS cases and showed no symptoms when he returned home on May 4.
But a week after, he went to two clinics and then two hospitals to have treatment, potentially exposing a large number of healthcare workers and other patients to the virus.
The agencies of South Korean have been knocked for being slow to react to the initial spread of MERS.
MERS infection is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which occurred in 2002-2003 and killed around 800 people worldwide.
According to WHO records MERS has a much higher death rate, 38 percent, but also spreads far less swiftly than SARS from person to person, making it less of a threat for now.
Two people have died in South Korea. The country, with 35 cases, has the most infections outside the Middle East, where the disease first appeared in 2012, and where most of the 440 fatalities have been.
A health ministry official said that about 1,600 people have been quarantined in South Korea, most of them at home or in medical institutions.
“We are in a war,” expressed by an official at a health center in Seoul’s wealthy Gangnam district, where alarm spread when medical workers in protective suits were spotted near a hotel.
The official explained that a Middle Eastern guest at the hotel fell sick and was afterwards confined in quarantine at a hospital.
A 30-year-old man resident of Gangnam exclaimed, “I saw some people dressed in scary white spacesuits on the street.”
North Korea had requested the South to supply heat-detecting cameras to monitor temperatures of South Korean workers traveling to the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, just north of the border, a South Korean government official said.
North Korea’s three cameras was rented by South to use at the complex during the recent scare over Ebola, the official said.
Last week China reported its first case, that of a South Korean man who tested positive after breaking a voluntary house quarantine and traveling to Hong Kong and on to mainland China.
The Ministry of Education said that there are more than 700 schools in South Korea were closed or had classes canceled as of Thursday.
Data from the World Health Organization illustrates that South Korea’s new cases bring the total number globally to about 1,180, with 442 related deaths.