All hospitals in South Korea have been ordered to track all the visitors to the emergency ward due to a large outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Health ministry said on Thursday that there have been difficulties locating every person who has been exposed to this disease. MERS is a viral disease affecting the respiratory system (lungs and breathing tubes). Most MERS patients developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. About 3-4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died.
South Korea is facing the largest outbreak, after Saudi Arabia. The 180 MERS cases in the country have been caught from sufferers that have been encountered in emergency wards of hospitals before they were diagnosed and sent into quarantine.
“This issue has been raised as one of the biggest problems, as we looked at the trend of the MERS outbreak,” Kwon Deok-cheol, the ministry’s head of health care policy, told a news briefing.
The Ministry has ordered all hospitals to keep records of all the patients their family members and the time of their visits to the emergency wards. They have even been asked to account for the ambulance workers.
By Thursday the death toll reached 29.
Many of the deaths have been among the elderly patients or those already suffering from some kind of illness. There are 77 people currently still in the hospital for treatment of MERS.
The epicenter responsible for the outbreak was the emergency ward of a Seoul hospital run by the Samsung Group. A 35 year old patient suffering from MERS waited three days for a bed meanwhile 900 patients, their families, other visitors and hospital staff all visited the ward.
On Thursday health officials declared they were monitoring more than 2000 people who had visited another Seoul hospital after another patient there was found to be MERS positive.
The health ministry has promised to change the practice of patients and their families waiting in emergency rooms for beds to become available.
On Wednesday, the ministry said the outbreak was at a crossroads, backing off from an earlier assessment that the spread of disease had leveled off.