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Authorities say 77 came into contact with MERS patient

Zhang Yi
Updated: Jun 1,2015 7:12 AM     China Daily

The number of people who had been in close contact with the first patient in China with Middle East respiratory syndrome rose to 77 in Guangdong, the provincial Health and Family Planning Commission said on May 31.

Among them, 64 have been quarantined while 13 others, including 11 passengers on a bus to Huizhou boarded by the man, have remained out of contact.

None of the quarantined has showed any abnormality.

The first patient, a 44-year-old South Korean man, is conscious, his vital signs are stable, and his heart rate and blood pressure normal.

He flew from Seoul to Hong Kong on May 26, a day after his father was diagnosed with MERS, and traveled to Huizhou by bus on the same day, ignoring instructions from doctors to stay home.

MERS is a respiratory tract illness caused by the MERS coronavirus.

The first known human case was confirmed in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and since then 1,142 cases in 23 countries had been reported up until May 16. There is no vaccine or treatment for the illness.

The current outbreak has been traced to a 68-year-old man diagnosed on May 20 after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia.

Eighteen people in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region who had close contact with the patient in Huizhou have been sent to a quarantine camp-including two South Korean women who had earlier been reported to have refused to be quarantined-the Hong Kong Department of Health’s Center for Health Protection said on May 31.

The top health authorities in Guangdong and Hong Kong have issued notices asking people who were onboard Asiana Airlines OZ723 and two buses with the patient to report to them immediately.

Central Hospital in Huizhou has trained 160 nurses for the disease. Guangzhou Daily reported that the nurses were selected by lot to work with the South Korean patient in the intensive care unit.

Lin Jianfeng, a director in charge of infectious disease prevention at the Guangdong Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the possibility of widespread human-to-human infections is remote.

He said 158 people were on the same flight as the patient and 41 people were on the same buses with him. “The toughest job now is to track all of the passengers on the buses,” he added.

The South Korean Health Ministry said the country had 15 patients infected with the virus as of May 31.

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