Chinese health authorities have announced the first confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, commonly known as MERS, a potentially deadly respiratory virus that was discovered in 2012. On Friday, China announced that a 44-year-old South Korean man tested positive for the disease and has been quarantined along with 38 people who have had contact with him.
“As we we have said before, the possibility of MERS transferring into Guangdong is very high,” He Jianfeng, the director of the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control, said in a press conference. The unnamed patient reportedly entered mainland China’s southern province of Guangdong through Hong Kong via a busy cross-border checkpoint by bus. He reportedly also stayed at a hotel before being checked in to the hospital. The patient is being treated in the city of Huizhou, after experiencing fever-like symptoms. “We understand he is currently in stable condition and is being well cared for,” a representative for the WHO in China said, according to Reuters.
Because of the patient's travel route, authorities say that it’s possible there wil be more cases. Upon initial testing, He said the 38 people who had confirmed contact with the infected patient have not tested positive for MERS but have shown some mild symptoms.
The World Health Organization reported that South Korea has 10 confirmed cases of MERS, none of which were spread human-to-human. “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 traveling from the Middle East,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said in a press briefing on Friday.
According to the Center for Disease Control, MERS was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in September of 2012. The CDC reports that about three or four of every 10 patients that are infected with MERS die from the disease. The WHO says that there have been 1,142 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS infection, and 427 related deaths.