South Korea hospital 'is source of many Mers cases'

Song Jae-Hoon apologises for failings at the Samsung Medical Center. 14 June 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Song Jae-Hoon apologised for failings at the Samsung Medical Center

A hospital has suspended most of its services after being identified as the source of almost half the cases in the South Korean outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers).

The president of the Samsung Medical Center in the capital Seoul issued a public apology on Sunday.

Health officials have reported seven new cases bringing the total to 145. Fifteen people are known to have died.

Meanwhile, a South Korean man in Slovakia is being tested for the virus.

The man reportedly works for a subcontractor of South Korean car maker Kia.

Visitors banned

Samsung Medical Center president Song Jae-hoon told reporters that the hospital would stop treating outpatients and admitting new patients to prevent further infections among patients and medical staff.

He said no visitors would be allowed, and non-urgent surgery was being stopped.

"We apologise for causing great concern as Samsung Medical Center became the centre of the spread of Mers," he said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Precautions at the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul have been stepped up

"This is entirely our responsibility and failing, as we did not properly manage emergency-room staff."

Mr Song said he would review the suspension on services on 24 June.

More than 70 cases have been traced back to the hospital, authorities say.

Among them was an emergency ward orderly who worked for days after developing symptoms and came into contact with more than 200 people, officials said.

It is believed the orderly picked up the virus from an infected person who waited for days in various parts of the emergency ward, potentially exposing the virus to an estimated 900 staff, patients and visitors.

South Korea reported seven new cases on Sunday and the 15th victim died in the city of Busan.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the outbreak is "large and complex" with further cases expected, although it does not expect the outbreak to spread among the wider community.

The outbreak is the largest outside Saudi Arabia, where the disease was first identified in humans in 2012.

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Media captionMers virus explained in 60 seconds

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers)

  • Mers is caused by a coronavirus, a type of virus which includes the common cold and Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
  • First cases emerged in the Middle East in 2012, and the first death in Saudi Arabia in June that year.
  • It is not known for certain how it is transmitted. It is possible the virus is spread in droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • Patients have a fever, cough and breathing difficulties, but Mers can also cause pneumonia and kidney failure.
  • Approximately 36% of reported patients with Mers have died - there is no vaccine or specific treatment.

Mers: The new coronavirus explained

How South Korea is coping with outbreak

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