World

S. Korean man who flew to China despite being under quarantine tests positive for MERS

A South Korean man who travelled to China this week has tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers), a health ministry official in Seoul said on Friday (May 29).

The 44-year-old man had been in voluntary home quarantine in South Korea last week.

He had a fever on Monday (May 25), the day his father was diagnosed with the virus. But he insisted on leaving for China on a business trip the next day.

The man flew to Hong Kong and took a bus to the province​ of Guangdong.

South Korea informed China's health authorities and the man was admitted to a hospital. He later tested positive for Mers.

This is China's first case of the virus.

'Possibility of Mers transferring into Guangdong is very high'

Guangdong health authorities said it was likely the disease would spread as the patient had taken a bus, crossed a busy border checkpoint and stayed in a hotel before being taken to hospital. 

"As we have said before, the possibility of Mers transferring into Guangdong is very high," Mr He Jianfeng, director for the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control, told reporters. 

"In theory, it’s possible to have a second case."

But he added that 38 people found to have come into contact with the patient so far have not tested positive.

There were about 160 people on the Hong Kong-bound flight, and around 10 people on the bus.

10 cases in South Korea

Meanwhile, South Korea confirmed two more Mers cases on Friday (May 29), bringing the total number of patients to 10.

The infections were all traced to the original case: A 68-year-old man who was diagnosed on May 20 after returning from Saudi Arabia.

The two new cases are of a 30-year-old nurse from the hospital where the original case was reported and a 56-year-old man who was treated there for other diseases.

Mers is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) virus which appeared in Asia in 2003 and killed hundreds of people.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday (May 29) that it was not recommending screening of passengers or that travel or trade restrictions be imposed on South Korea due to the outbreak.

The United Nations health agency's spokesman Christian Lindmeier said: "The virus is not behaving differently, it is direct transmission and not sustained human-to-human-transmission. They are all related to the same case who came travelling from the Middle East."

Sources: AFP, Reuters, Xinhua

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