At least four people have died from the MERS-CoV virus in South Korea. The number of confirmed cases have reached 41. The government has closed 900 schools in the hopes of averting further spread of the virus that originated from Saudi Arabia. A South Korean airman stationed at the U.S. Osan Air Base in the country also tested positive for the virus, prompting concerns it could trigger a ripple that could reach faraway America.
Yonhap news agency reported that the latest victim was a 76-year-old patient who tested positive for the virus on May 21. The patient died on Thursday. The disease has no cure or vaccine.
The World Health Organization warned the South Korea MERS-CoV outbreak could grow as the number of people in quarantine reach over 1,600. Of this figure, 160 were isolated at state-designated facilities. The rest were told to stay home and put into practice self-isolation to prevent the spread of the virus to family and other people.
The Associated Press reports even 17 camels located in various zoos in South Korea were also placed in quarantine.
CNN reports South Korea’s health care system is sophisticated and modern. Yet it wasn’t prepared when the MERS-CoV struck. The fast uptick of the number of people who died have rattled the nerves of others. AFP reports the country’s designated MERS hotline accommodated over 3,000 calls on Wednesday alone.
The South Korean airman who tested positive for the virus is a chief master sergeant in the Republic of Korea Air Force, the Military Times reports, citing a statement issued by the 51st Fighter Wing public affairs office on Thursday. It added the wingman is now in an undisclosed hospital outside of the base and is so far not displaying any symptoms. The report added some 100 of his coworkers and acquaintances have been told to stay home and monitor themselves for symptoms.
“The virus spreads through close personal contact, such as caring for a MERS patient or sharing utensils and drink containers,” U.S. Air Force Col. Krystal Murphy, commander of the 51st Medical Group, said. “We recommend everyone exercise caution and use good hygiene practices to prevent any further spread of MERS.”
The MERS-CoV virus first emerged in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. The World Health Organization said the virus has infected 1,200 people worldwide and killed 436.