Mon, Jun 01, 2015 - Page 3 News List

CDC calls for calm as suspected MERS case tests negative

REASSURANCE:The CDC has ordered hospitals to step up infection control measures and bolstered health management at entry points to the nation

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday urged the public not to panic over a widening outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in South Korea, hours after a Taiwanese man thought to be infected with the virus was confirmed as having influenza.

According to CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩), the man from Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖) called the CDC’s 1922 disease prevention hotline on Saturday due to a fever and sore throat after returning from Dubai on Friday.

“He was on a business trip to the commercial hub in the Middle East from May 23 to Monday last week, before making his second stop in Vietnam, where he spent four days between Tuesday last week and Friday,” Chou said.

Despite showing no signs of pneumonia — a symptom of MERS infection — Chou said the patient was quarantined at a hospital while authorities awaited the result of his screening test.

The man tested negative for the MERS coronavirus, but was weakly positive for type-B influenza.

“Since the 2013 MERS outbreak in the Middle East, the CDC has received 17 reports of suspected cases, all of which were cleared of the deadly virus,” Chou said, adding that the CDC has reinforced border health management and instructed hospitals to step up infection control measures.

Chou said that while there is no need for alarm over the disease at this stage, given that it is still mostly confined to countries in the Middle East, the public should stay vigilant against the possibility of MERS cases in the nation through travel or business exchanges.

The centers’ reassurance came at a time when a growing number of MERS cases in South Korea has brought back memories of the 2003 SARS outbreak, which sickened 300 and killed more than 40.

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