By Kim Rahn
Two more patients have died of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), raising the death toll to 27, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Monday.
Following the deaths, the fatality rate of the disease in Korea rose to 15.7 percent.
The latest victims were men aged 84 and 97. They contracted the virus in Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, and Dae Cheong Hospital in Daejeon, respectively.
They had suffered from chronic diseases and cancer before being infected with MERS, according to the ministry.
Three new cases were also confirmed that brought the total number of patients to 172.
One of them, a 60-year-old woman, was infected with the disease while staying at the emergency room of Samsung Medical Center in late May when the nation’s 14th patient visited there and spread the virus to nearly 80 others.
Her case is causing more controversy over the incubation period of the disease, which experts say is up to 14 days, because she was diagnosed with the virus 10 days after that period had passed.
As the 14th patient left the emergency room on May 29, the government initially expected there would be no more outbreaks from the hospital after the 14-day period finished on June 12 — a wrong expectation.
The ministry said seven patients, including the only teenage patient, have recovered and were released from quarantine facilities, raising the total number to 50.
A total of 3,833 were in isolation for possible contact with MERS patients as of Monday. The number has been slowly decreasing.
According to the ministry, the 172 cases mainly came from six patients who spread the virus to at least two others.
The nation’s first patient transmitted the disease to 30 people including 28 at Pyeongtaek St. Mary’s Hospital in Gyeonggi Province.
The 14th patient, a so-called “super-spreader,” contracted the virus from the first patient and spread it to 80, mainly at Samsung Medical Center.
The 16th patient, also infected from the first patient, transmitted the disease to 23 others.