Officials in Hong Kong have issued a "red alert" advisory cautioning against non-essential travel to South Korea due to an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Reuters is reporting. Thus far there have been 95 cases of MERS in South Korea, with seven fatalities. Eight new cases were reported Tuesday morning, down sharply from 23 new cases on Monday.
"At this stage, to issue a clear message is something the Hong Kong government thinks is necessary," Hong Kong official Carrie Lam told Reuters.
A "red alert" is the second-highest travel advisory on a three-point scale. It is defined as a "significant threat," and means that travelers should adjust plans and avoid non-essential travel.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has begun a joint mission with South Korea to analyze the virus and review the company's response. The WHO has not recommended any restrictions on travel.
The United States Embassy in South Korea has issued some tips regarding the outbreak.
"All patients in Korea acquired their illness in hospital settings where they came in direct or indirect contact with MERS patients," the embassy said in a statement. "Contacts with MERS patients will require monitoring or isolation for up to 14 days, usually in their own home. Medical leaders in Korea are working closely with the CDC and other public health experts to contain this MERS outbreak."
According to the WHO, MERS is a type of coronavirus, the same family of viruses that cause the common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Typical symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Approximately 36 percent of reported patients with MERS have died, and no vaccine or specific treatment is currently available.