A South Korean hospital reports a “super spreader” of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) among their patient roster as it confirmed 82 cases of the disease in just three days. South Korean scientists published their findings in The Lancet Medical Journal.

According to the report, the 82 infected victims include patients, visitors and health workers. The spread became rampant and worse due to hospital overcrowding. This outcome shows how MERS can spread from a single patient and should serve as an example for potential outbreaks for future references.

Professors Doo Ryeon Chung and Yae-Jean Kim of Seoul's Samsung Medical Center underscored how critical emergency preparedness and vigilance in hospitals, laboratories, and government agencies are to prevent further outbreaks not only of (MERS) infections, but also other emerging infectious diseases.

Reports indicate that the “index patient” is a 68-year-old man who had trips to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar from April to May before returning to South Korea.

The subject visited the Samsung Medical Center on May 17 and was then isolated the next day following initial suspicion of MERS infection.
Three days later, the patient was finally confirmed to be infected with MERS.

Samsung Medical Center is a renowned hospital that sees and can accommodate 200 patients or more per day. The index patient has already spread the virus in other hospitals before arriving at Samsung Medical.

Other patients include a 34-year-old man whom the subject shared a room with. Reports say that the other patient led to the discovery of the index patient after being admitted to Samsung Medical and thus spreading the virus in the process.

Investigations reveal security camera footage and medical records showed that the new patient was exposed to around 1,500 people in Samsung Medical’s emergency room.

Investigators say among the infected are 33 patients, eight staff members, and 41 visitors during the three-day period.

MERS first emerged in humans in 2012 and had been spreading in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries since then. It is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

Symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing and breathing problems. Patients are advised to report the case to a health facility immediately if symptoms persist, and hospitals are urged to isolate patients under these conditions. MERS has spread to 27 countries and has claimed 40 percent of the infected population. MIMS