July 27, 2015 09:34
The last person quarantined with suspected Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was released early Monday morning, health authorities said. After an inter-agency meeting Tuesday Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn will assure the public that they no longer risk catching the deadly disease.
However, the announcement officially declaring the end of the outbreak can only come 28 days after the last infected patient tests negative for MERS, according to World Health Organization guidelines, or twice the length of the latency period.
So far there have been no new reported infections for 21 days while 11 out of 12 MERS patients in hospital have recovered fully but still suffer from side effects such as pneumonia, bed sores or breathing difficulties.
It will take some time before the sole patient who still tests positive for the MERS virus is declared free of infection, since he has been given drugs to suppress the immune system to treat lymphoma.
A health official said, "The remaining patient, who could be the source of further infections, is under tight quarantine, so we can safely say that there is no more threat of another outbreak. All we need to do is make sure no infected people enter the country."
The government is considering lowering the MERS warning from "extreme caution" to "caution" until the outbreak is considered completely over.
The government will check cooperation between the central and regional governments and hospitals in dealing with any future cases, while assigning a set number of hospitals to deal with epidemics.
Health officials also want to improve checks on visitors to hospitals. Lawmakers promise to expedite regulations to help the government and health officials deal with epidemics in the future.
The fate of the health minister, who was lambasted for his mishandling of the response during the initial stage of the MERS outbreak, is uncertain.
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