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Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

17th June 2015 – Nineteen people have died following an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) in South Korea.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the outbreak started with the introduction of MERS-CoV – also known as MERS – infection into the country by a single infected traveller and was amplified by infection in hospitals and movement of cases within and among hospitals.

To date, there have been 162 confirmed cases of MERS in South Korea.

According to WHO, the number of new cases occurring each day appears to be declining, suggesting that containment measures in place are having an effect in reducing new infections.

Public Health England says although there is a risk of the virus being imported into the UK, the risk remains low. However, it says health professionals should remain vigilant because of the importance of early containment measures.

What do we know about this infection? Read our FAQs.

What is MERS-CoV?

MERS is a relatively new type of severe respiratory illness.

Infection with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The disease is believed to have started in camels, but most cases now stem from human-to-human transmission.

One of the first people to be diagnosed was seen by doctors in the UK after returning from the Middle East.

As of the 9th June 2015, there had been 1,218 cases of MERS reported to WHO, with at least 449 related deaths.

A total of 25 countries have reported cases of MERS. The vast majority of cases have so far occurred in Saudi Arabia.

What are the symptoms of MERS-CoV?

Patients treated for MERS-CoV have had symptoms including:

Many of the milder symptoms are also seen in more common illnesses, such as colds and flu. Anyone with these symptoms who's been to the Middle East recently should let doctors know about their travel, especially if symptoms worsen.

How is MERS-CoV treated?

Some patients with MERS have been admitted to hospital initially suspected of having pneumonia and were given antibiotics.

Patients with MERS-CoV who suffer acute respiratory failure may need to use a ventilator machine to breathe with oxygen.

Hospitals are briefed to keep anyone suspected of having MERS-CoV isolated to help stop infection spreading.

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