Disease

Korea declares end to MERS outbreak

The government declared the end of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, more than seven months after the infectious disease broke out here.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Wednesday that the country would be officially free of the respiratory disease at 12 a.m. today, 218 days after the first case appeared.

Thursday would be 28 days — double the incubation period of the virus — since the last patient’s death. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises waiting double the incubation period of a disease before declaring the end to an epidemic.

Zika Virus Spreading in Brazil

Brazil is in the grips of yet another crisis: a fast-spreading virus some health officials are linking to thousands of cases of infant brain damage and 40 related deaths this year.

Health authorities have declared a national emergency as they battle the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen that has been detected across much of South America’s largest country.

Symptoms include fever, rashes, headaches, joint aches and vomiting, lasting from a few days to about a week. The virus is rarely lethal, and it is usually treated with bed rest and liquids.

Health officials believe the virus this year alone is responsible in Brazil for an explosion of cases of microcephaly, an extremely rare condition in which babies are born with shrunken skulls because their brains aren’t growing properly. But they say microcephaly hasn’t been linked to Zika virus outbreaks before.

On Tuesday, Brazil’s Health Ministry released figures showing that as of Saturday, the number of suspected Zika-related microcephaly cases had climbed to 2,782, a surge of nearly 16% from the previous week. The number of confirmed deaths shot up to 40 from 29 over the period.

By comparison, Brazil had 147 cases of microcephaly for all of 2014.

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