Anatomy of the South Korean MERS outbreak

Most victims got infected by several 'superspreaders'

MERS network map

T.H. Saey, Maimuna Majumder, S. Egts

In 2015, South Korea experienced an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS. Between May and July, 186 people contracted the MERS virus; 38 eventually died.

This diagram shows how quickly the pathogen spread within and between hospitals via a handful of “superspreaders.” 

Case numbers are from the South Korean Ministry of Health, listed in the order that the individuals were diagnosed. Hover your mouse over the markers on the diagram to learn more about individual cases.

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Credits: T.H. Saey, Maimuna Majumder, S. Egts

Sources:, World Health Organization, South Korean Ministry of Health, ProMED-Mail

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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