MERS coronavirus has yet to spread to Vietnam: official

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Vietnam health authorities have yet to record any cases of the SARS-like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a health official said on July 15.

There have been 45 confirmed deaths from the virus worldwide so far.

Tran Dac Phu, deputy head of the Ministry of Health's General Department of Preventive Medicine, was quoted by Vietnam News Agency as saying that the number of MERS-CoV cases in the world has increased in recent months, and the infection could spread to Vietnam through businesspeople or tourists coming from affected countries.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long ordered that those who come to Vietnam from such areas be monitored for 14 days, which is roughly the incubation period for MERS-CoV.

Those who have MERS-CoV may suffer symptoms such as coughing and fevers and may die suddenly due to respiratory failure, Long said.

MERS-CoV carries with it a 56 percent mortality rate, Phu of the preventive medicine department said. Old people, men and those suffering from chronic diseases die from the illness at a 65 percent rate.

According to Phu, between September 2012 and July 15, 2013, 82 people have become infected worldwide, and 45 deaths have been confirmed. Around 80 percent of cases came from Saudi Arabia.

Phu said another eight people from Saudi Arabia four health officials and four children aged seven to 15 contracted to the virus but have yet to show symptoms, which can hinder efforts to control the illness's spread in the community.

The World Health Organization (WHO) experts said the MERS-CoV appears to be transmitted from humans to humans but in small clusters, limited to those have close contact with sick people.

Vietnam's General Department of Preventive Medicine has tested 708 samples from people suspected to have MERS-CoV and A/H7N9 a new avian flu strain that China's health authorities confirmed on July 10 has killed 43 among 132 infected people there as of June 30  but they all tested negative for both viruses, according to a Vietnam News Agency report.

WHO flu expert Keiji Fukuda said July 5 that the organization was forming an emergency committee of international experts to prepare for a possible MERS-CoV outbreak despite the lack of a current emergency or pandemic.

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