South Korea reported its fifth death from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on Sunday and confirmed 14 fresh cases of the disease, raising the number of patients to 64.
A 75-year-old man was confirmed to have tested positive for the virus after he died Saturday, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Ten out of the newly infected people were exposed to the virus when they were in the emergency room of Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul in late May, where a doctor was recently diagnosed with the illness, according to the government. The other four were known to have come in close contact with MERS patients at other hospitals.
“All of the additional cases were infected at hospitals,” a government official said. “More cases are likely to be found at Samsung Medical Center, but the rate of fresh infections may be at standstill or decline after this weekend.”
Concerns about the disease have been growing here since South Korea first reported the disease on May 20 as a 68-year-old man, the South Korean “index patient,” contracted the virus after returning from a trip to the Middle East.
More than 1,800 people with suspected symptoms have been isolated or ordered to remain in self-quarantine in South Korea.
MERS is a viral respiratory illness that had a very high fatality rate of over 40 percent globally before the outbreak in South Korea, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In South Korea, the death rate from the virus has reached 7.8 percent.
Most people infected with MERS develop severe acute respiratory illness, including a fever, a cough and shortness of breath. There currently is no vaccine or treatment for the disease.
The government has come under fire for its bungled initial response to the disease. President Park Geun-hye called a meeting of relevant government officials to cope with the issue as late as 14 days after the first case was reported.
Acting Prime Minister Choi Kyung-hwan, who is also the finance minister, plans to unveil measures to prevent the further spread of MERS later in the day to quell public fears about the virus. (Yonhap)