(AGI) Geneva, June 17 - The outbreak of Middle East RespiratorySyndrome Coronovirus (MERS-CoV) in South Korea is a "wake-upcall", World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General KeijiFukuda told a press conference after a meeting of its emergencycommittee. A WHO statement issued on Wednesday pointed todelays and mistakes in South Korea's response to thecoronovirus epidemic, the most extensive apart from SaudiArabia, and illustrated concerns about the authorities'abilities to contain the outbreak. It had taken everybody inSouth Korea by surprise, and this had contributed to a delayedresponse, Ms Fukada said. All countries should remain highlyvigilant and have preventive and control measures in place. Thecommittee decided that the situation was worrying, but did notconstitute an international public health emergency. The lackof awareness among health workers and inadequate infectioncontrol and hospital control measures were criticised. Infectedpatients had been in contact with other people in crowdedemergency rooms containing several beds. Relatives had remainedin the rooms with those affected by the virus, encouragingcontagion. Almost all the cases were identified in hospitals,but patients diagnosed as having the coronavirus over the lastfew days had not been placed in quarantine and had carried onas normal. There are currently around 6,500 people inquarantine. The epidemic has been gathering unusual pace sincethe first patient was diagnosed with MERS-CoV on May 20, aftera trip to Saudi Arabia. MERS-CoV is a serious disease, causedby a coronavirus similar to the Severe Acute RespiratorySyndrome (SARS) virus, responsible for the deaths of almost 800people around the world in 2003. It is less contagious but morelethal, and carries a 35 percent death rate. There is novaccine and more than 950 people have caught it since 2012, 412of whom have died. (AGI).
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