China Reports First MERS Virus Case in South Korean Traveler

A South Korean man who traveled to China on Tuesday was confirmed to be infected by the potentially lethal Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus, the first case in the world’s most populous nation.

After close contact with a confirmed MERS case in South Korea and experiencing discomfort last week, the patient flew to Hong Kong and then entered China’s Guangdong province, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in a statement on Friday.

The coronavirus from the Arabian peninsula, called MERS-COV, has infected more than 1,100 people and killed more than 400 worldwide, with most in the Middle East. The virus doesn’t seem to pass easily from person to person unless there is close contact and there is still no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, according to a statement from the World Health Organization.

The patient is in stable condition and local health authorities are tracing all close contacts, the Geneva-based agency said. Hong Kong is tracing passengers who shared a flight and bus with the patient, according to the department of health.

South Korea has had 11 confirmed cases of the virus, including the index case, and all were closely connected to the original patient, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said by phone today.

The virus can lead to severe illness including respiratory failure, or even septic shock. There is no vaccine or cure.

— With assistance by Hui Li, and Simeon Bennett

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