Mers virus outbreak: South Korean officials argue over spread of disease after doctor who treated patient and fell ill went to gathering

A doctor who had treated a Mers patient subsequently went to a gathering attended by 1,565 people

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The Independent Online

South Korean authorities have continued to squabble over their handling of an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), as a fourth person died and five new cases were reported.

The outbreak began in South Korea last month when an infected South Korean man brought it back from a business trip to the Middle East.

With 41 cases, South Korea has the most infections outside the Middle East, where the disease first appeared in 2012.

On Thursday, city officials in Seoul had accused health authorities of being slow to share information, in particular about a doctor who had treated a Mers patient and subsequently went to a gathering attended by 1,565 people.

The doctor was later diagnosed with Mers and the people at the gathering have been advised to stay in voluntary quarantine. But the Health Minister, Moon Hyung-pyo, defended the handling of the case. “The announcement … has parts that are not factual and can increase public concern,” he said.

The most recent patient to die was a 76-year-old man who had been in the same ward as other Mers patients, the health ministry said.