Pregnant MERS patient recovers, safely gives birth

Photo illustration: TNP

A South Korean woman who was infected with Middle East respiratory syndrome while pregnant safely gave birth to a son Tuesday through a cesarean section, the nation's health authorities said Tuesday. Both the mother, who was told of her full recovery from MERS on Tuesday, and her baby are doing well, they added.

The 39-year-old is the world's first MERS patient to have given birth to a healthy child, while also having recovered from the virus at the same time. The woman became Korea's 109th MERS patient on June 11.

Meanwhile, Seoul reported three more MERS cases Tuesday, bringing the number of confirmed patients to 175. However, no death was reported on the same day, while four more people have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. One of the four recovered individuals is the 14th patient, who is believed to have infected some 80 people while staying at Samsung Medical Center.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Korea's MERS fatality rate remained 15.4 per cent.

The woman, who was an inpatient at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, was exposed to the virus while visiting her mother, who was admitted to the same hospital's emergency centre on May 27 for acute indigestion.

At the time, the nation's 14th MERS patient, who is considered a "superspreader," was staying at the hospital's emergency unit. Her father also accompanied the woman's visit to the emergency unit.

While pregnant, she became one of 85 people who were infected with MERS at the hospital, along with both her mother and father.

Since her diagnosis on June 11, she had been staying at the hospital while being treated for her MERS symptoms, mainly mild muscle pain.

According to Samsung Medical Center, she had already been asymptomatic since Monday, the day before she gave birth.

According to Dr. Kim Jong-hwa, who performed the woman's cesarean section, the woman had been preparing for a natural delivery, but had to undergo the procedure not because of MERS but as she abruptly developed a pregnancy complication.

Her condition, placental abruption, happens when the placenta starts to come away from the inner wall of the uterus prior to delivery.

All of the health care professionals who participated in the procedure wore protective gear to prevent any possibility of infection.

Right after the delivery, the baby was tested for MERS infection and the results came out negative. On the same day, the mother was officially told that she had made a full recovery from MERS.

"We are just very happy that both the mother and the baby are healthy," said Dr. Kim in a statement.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 54 people have recovered from MERS, while 27 have died. A total of 94 individuals are currently being treated under quarantine. Among them, 16 are in unstable condition.

The number of those who are quarantined for possible infection dropped to 2,805 from 3,833 the day before.

The Health Ministry said those who are quarantined at home are now banned from taking domestic flights on top of going overseas to prevent the spread of the outbreak.

The ministry is also allowing health care workers at a number of hospitals to treat their outpatients by telephone.

The facilities include Kyung Hee University Hospital at Gangdong in Seoul and Asan Chungmu Hospital in Cheonan, Chungcheong Province.

"This is only a temporary measure as these hospitals are currently banned from receiving outpatients," said Kwon Deok-cheol from the Health Ministry.

"No telephone treatments will be allowed once these hospitals go back to normal and start to receive outpatients as usual."

Kwon also confirmed that the 173rd patient, a 70-year-old caregiver, visited three different medical clinics before being hospitalised at the Hallym University Medical Center in Seoul, where she was eventually diagnosed with MERS.

The three facilities are Bon otolaryngology clinic (391 Godeok-ro, Gangdong-gu, Seoul), Gangdong neurosurgery clinic (345-24 Myeongil-dong Gangdong-gu, Seoul) and Mok Cha-su internal medicine clinic (223 Sangil-dong, Gangdong-gu, Seoul).

Those who visited Mok Cha-su internal medicine clinic from June 10-11, Bon otolaryngology clinic on June 15 or Gangdong neurosurgery clinic on June 16 are asked to let their doctors know that they may have been exposed to the virus should they seek medical help for any symptoms or diseases.

To prevent possible infection, the Hallym University Medical Center also has been banned from performing any surgical procedures, as well as from receiving new patients and visitors.