country korea people world

Health of the MERS Virus in South Korea

In South Korea, a growing number of deaths from middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. In an interview with DW, Christian Drosten virologist explains how the virus originated and how to deal with it.

Experts from the world health organization (who) is concerned about the outbreak of middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS) in South Korea, where about 150 recorded cases of infection. According to data on Monday, June 15, the death toll rose to 16 people. Previously, in order to prevent in the country have been closed several hundred schools. On 16 June the who will hold urgent meeting on the surge of the virus in South Korea.

So far there is neither a specific treatment nor vaccine against MERS. Experts believe that the best prevention is hygiene as the virus is transmitted by airborne droplets. The head of the Institute of Virology of the University clinic of Bonn Drosten Christian (Christian Drosten) told DW about the origin of this virus in South Korea and what dangers lie in its distribution.

DW: How dangerous outbreak of MERS coronavirus in South Korea?

Christian Drosten: I do Not think that the virus is MERS different from those we observed in the Arabian Peninsula in the last few years. This should take into account the circumstances under which the disease broke out. In South Korea, the majority of infections in a short period of time were recorded in hospitals – there must be, there are problems with hygiene.

– Whether the closure of schools, in your opinion, really necessary?

– I think it’s an exaggeration. Infection, indeed, are attributable to nosocomial infections. I don’t think that the virus circulates invisibly among the population. You need to pay attention on hospitals, in particular, on the patient care and the procedure of artificial ventilation, and to wonder what there could go wrong.

– Usually occurs as the virus MERS?

– In all likelihood, the infection occurs as in case of other infections transmitted by airborne droplets. While the virus becomes, ultimately, from one airway to another, it can also be transmitted by contact.

– Sounds like MERS is highly contagious.

– The MERS virus in its current form, in which we found him in the Arabian Peninsula, is not considered very contagious. We know that, for example, his transfer to everyday situations is rather rare. This virus is not as contagious as, for example, the flu. The different transmission methods – including directly from camels to humans. For some time we know that in the case of outbreaks of MERS in hospitals is a common phenomenon.

– This is the first MERS surge in South Korea?

– Yes, this is the first hospital outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula. Previously, there were cases in Europe, including in Germany, which, however, did not lead to further spread of infection.

– Is there a danger to get infected by the virus currently in other places?

– Yes, an outbreak of the virus in the Eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula in the Saudi city Hofuf. Last year there were a few blips in the capital Riyadh and one in Jeddah.

– Had already happened, the appearance of the virus outside of the Arabian Peninsula?

– The virus has already brought to other countries, including in Europe and – repeatedly – Germany. But they were always isolated cases, limited to a certain area.

In the German hospitals are very good hygienic conditions. This year in Germany, in particular, was recorded one case of MERS infection: the patient was treated in intensive care, using the best means, and, as far as we know, the further spread of the virus has occurred.

Given the experience of 2003, when SARS (SARS) has killed about 800 people, we can say that science and health is now better prepared?

The virus that caused SARS, the MERS virus related. Researching SARS, we received data that can be used to study MERS. In particular, any ideas about what drugs could be used for treatment. Now under the auspices of the German centre of infection research (DZIF), several working groups are developing vaccines. They have already achieved some success, but for use in clinical practice still requires a lot of time and work.

– Is there a danger that by mutation can be a new, even more dangerous virus?

– Dealing with virus, you can never be sure that there will be no mutations. I saw the sequence of the genome of the MERS virus, which have already been identified. Like many international experts, I believe that currently do not see anything unusual, that is not to say that the virus has changed.