China confirms first MERS virus case

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Doctors look at an X-ray. Photo: WHO

China has confirmed its first case of potentially fatal Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS), the UN health agency said Friday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the individual is a Republic of Korea national in his mid-40s who's now in a hospital isolation unit.

The man can be linked directly to another 10 confirmed cases of infection in the Republic of Korea which stem from an individual who travelled extensively in the Middle East.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Announcing the news, World Health Organization said that the Republic of Korea national had travelled to Guangdong province in China via Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The patient is in isolation in hospital and his condition is described as stable.

Now the hunt is on to find all the people he came into contact with on his way to China.

WHO says the patient in China has links to 10 infected individuals in Republic of Korea.

All of those cases stem from an individual who travelled extensively in the Middle East, notably Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.

So far the virus does not appear to pass easily from person to person.

Here's WHO's Christian Lindmeier:

"The way it got to Korea and to China is simply by travelling so far and by direct transmission, there is no sustained further human to human transmission which would change the pattern of the virus, but it does not change so far."

Globally the virus has killed at least 427 people since late 2012.

It belongs to a family of coronaviruses that cause a range of illnesses in humans including the common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.

For the moment the UN agency does not advise any special airport screening measures, or trade or travel restrictions.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1’08″

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