On June 2nd, a 58-year-old woman and a 71-year-old man passed away, marking the first deaths in South Korea as a result of MERS.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, can cause fever, cough, and shortness of breath while some have experience gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Those with severe complications from the virus have been known to experience pneumonia and even kidney failure. So far, there have been 25 cases confirmed in South Korea with the recent deaths being the first.
In response to the deaths, South Korean President Park Geun Hye admitted that there has been “some insufficiency” in her country’s initial response to the virus and called for an “all-out” response in preventative measures. Although scientists have yet to decipher how the virus can be contracted, some have theorized that it could, in fact, be airborne.
The first case of MERS can be traced back to Saudi Arabian camels in 2012.
In South Korea, most cases of MERS can be traced back to the first patient with at least 19 of the 25 patients having been in direct contact with said patient. Currently, over 650 individuals have been quarantined in medical facilities or in their own homes as there are currently no vaccines or known cures for the highly fatal illness.