2015 Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak in South Korea

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2015 Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak in South Korea
2015 Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak in South Korea is located in South Korea
Date 20 May 2015 – 28 July 2015
Location South Korea
  • Cases: 186
  • Deaths: 36

An outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus occurred in South Korea from May 2015 to July 2015.[3] The virus, which causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), was a newly emerged betacoronavirusthat was first identified in a patient from Saudi Arabia in April 2012. From the outbreak, a total of 186 cases have been infected, with a death toll of 36.


South Korea reported its first MERS case on 20 May 2015.[4] A 68-year-old man returning from the Middle East was diagnosed with MERS nine days after he initially sought medical help.[5]


The following table shows the daily statistics on the number of infected persons since 20 May 2015, based on the official report of the Central MERS Management Task Force, Ministry of Health and Welfare at the beginning of each day.[2][6]

^*1 Includes a case reported in China[7]

^*2 Parentheses indicate interim value


Main transmission route and event timeline[edit]


The government was criticized for underestimating the danger of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus and hesitating to announce facts to public. It was only on 6 June 2015 that South Korean officials released the names of all the health facilities where MERS victims had been treated or visited.[9]

On 7 June 2015, the South Korean government released the names of 24 MERS-affected hospitals to the public.[10] These hospitals include the Pyeongtaek St. Mary’s (SeongMo) Hospital (평택성모병원) and the Seoul Samsung Hospital (삼성서울병원), an affiliate of Samsung Medical Center.[11][12][13]

Hospitals where confirmed MERS cases were exposed, as of 12 July 2015, 11:00[14]
Hospital Korean name City/Province No. of cases
Samsung Medical Centre 삼성서울병원 Gangnam-gu/ Seoul 90
Pyeongtaek St. Mary’s Hospital 평택성모병원 Pyeongtaek/ Gyeonggi Province 37
Dae Cheong Hospital 대청병원 Seo-gu/ Daejeon 14
KonYang University Hospital 건양대학교병원 Seo-gu/ Daejeon 11
Hallym University Medical Centre 한림대학교동탄성심병원 Hwaseong/ Gyeonggi Province 6
Gangdong Gyeonghee University Hospital 강동경희대학교의대병원 Gangdong-gu/ Seoul 5
Gunguk University Hospital 건국대병원 Gwangjin-gu/ Seoul 4
Pyeongtaek Good Morning Hospital 평택굿모닝병원 Pyeongtaek/ Gyeonggi Province 4
Asan Seoul Clinic 아산서울의원 Asan / Chungnam Province 1
Yangji Samsung Medical Center 양지 서울삼성의원 Yongin/ Gyeonggi Province 1
365 Yeol Lin Clinic 365 열린의원 Gangdong-gu/ Seoul 1
Yeouido St. Mary’s Hospital 가톨릭대학교 여의도성모병원 Yeongdeungpo-gu/ Seoul 1
Asan Medical Center 서울아산병원 Songpa-gu/ Seoul 1
Good gang-an Hospital 좋은강안병원 Suyeong-gu/ Busan 1
Dr. Song Clinic 송태의 내과 Songpa-gu/ Seoul 1
Others (outside hospitals, under investigation) 7
Total 186

Related incidents[edit]

On 26 May 2015, a 44-year-old South Korean man, his father and elder sister being confirmed to be infected by MERS, paid no notice to a doctor’s advice or a self quarantine order from the government, and arrived in Huizhou through Hong Kong for a business trip. When he was found to have a fever, the man was suspected of being dishonest with border quarantine officers in Hong Kong by concealing that he had been to hospital on 16 May for nearly 4 hours to visit his father.[15] He has tested positive for MERS.[16]

On 30 May 2015, a website said that a driver in Huizhou who transported a South Korean male MERS patient was suspected to be infected but later the government clarified that this was a rumor.[17]

A Chinese fugitive who stayed in South Korea for 3 years turned himself in as he was afraid of the outbreak. He arrived at Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport on 4 June.[18]

On 8 June 2015, a South Korean couple who did not follow the self-quarantine notice were found to have visited the Philippines on 6 June. They had visited the respective clinics in Sunchang County where a 72-year-old woman was confirmed positive for MERS after having visited the clinic for lumbago treatment. The couple said that they only knew that the 72-old women was a MERS positive patient only after reading the news.[19]

On 9 June 2015, two Hong Kong students from City University of Hong Kong doing a 3-month exchange program in Sungkyunkwan University were ordered by a professor to get out of the classroom as they refused to remove their protective masks. The professor also said that they were too sensitive to the outbreak because of the history of SARS in Hong Kong in 2003. Sungkyunkwan University replied that some professors saw wearing masks as impolite and said if students insist on wearing masks, they might be refused to give presentations in class and may be unable to graduate due to this. Affected students said this reflected that the South Korean public was not attentive to the threat of the MERS outbreak.[20][dead link]

On 14 June, a South Korean man was tested for the virus in Bratislava in Slovakia. He is currently being treated at a hospital in Bratislava.[21] On the same day, he was tested negative, now quarantined for being tested for additional causes.[22]

On 25 June, a South Korean man who had been treated at a Chinese hospital after being diagnosed with the MERS virus in late May, was released from the hospital and returned to South Korea.[23]



The following table shows the number of schools which have been temporarily closed due to the outbreak:

Date Number of schools closed
2 June 2015 84[24]
3 June 2015 214[25]
4 June 2015 1,162[26]
5 June 2015 1,317[27]
7 June 2015 1,381 (7 in Gyeonggi Province)[28]
8 June 2015 1,970[29]
9 June 2015 2,208[30]
15 June 2015 475[31]


On 11 June 2015, South Korea’s central bank cut interest rates by 0.25 percentage points to stem the economic fallout from the outbreak.[32]

South Korea’s department store sales decreased by 16.5% compared to the same period last year, and retail shops also decreased 3.4%, according to the Minister of Strategy and Finance, as of June 17, 2015.[33]

As of 17 June 2015, 100,000 tourist visits to the nation had been cancelled.