By: Agence France-Presse
June 21, 2015 12:01 PM
Agence France-Presse file photograph
Seoul, South Korea – South Korea reported three new cases of MERS Sunday as health authorities remained vigilant about the spread of the virus, which appeared to have slowed in recent days.
Two medical workers are among those newly diagnosed with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, taking the total number of those infected to 169, the health ministry said.
The number of deaths remained unchanged at 25, it said.
The two medical staff include a doctor who treated a MERS patient at Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul, seen as the epicentre of the outbreak, where more than 80 were infected.
Another was a medical worker who took X-rays of a MERS patient in another hospital in Seoul.
A total of 43 people have so far recovered and have been released from hospital, including seven between Friday and Saturday, the ministry said.
Fourteen patients are in critical condition, it added.
The latest numbers came a day after South Korea reported no new cases, raising guarded hopes that Seoul was winning the battle to contain the virus.
The number of new patients had been falling for three straight days from eight on Tuesday to none on Saturday.
The number of people exposed to patients and quarantined at state facilities or at home also fell to 4,035 on Saturday from a peak of more than 6,700 on Wednesday.
The outbreak began on May 20 when a 68-year-old man was diagnosed after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia.
Since then the virus spread at an unusually rapid pace, sparking public alarm that prompted the temporary closure of thousands of schools and trip cancellations by more than 120,000 foreign tourists.
Almost all patients were infected in hospitals, and the World Health Organisation said it had found no evidence of transmission of the virus within communities outside hospitals.
WHO chief Margaret Chan said last Thursday that Seoul was now “on a very good footing” after an initially slow response.
The number of new infections has generally been in decline after peaking at 23 on June 7.
Most schools reopened last week except for about 120 — mostly in Seoul, Gyeonggi province surrounding the capital and Busan, the second-largest city.
There is no known vaccine for MERS, which has a mortality rate of 35 percent, according to the WHO.
The outbreak in South Korea — the largest outside Saudi Arabia — sparked alarm elsewhere in Asia, with Thailand confirming its first MERS patient on Thursday and Hong Kong recently advising its citizens against non-essential travel to South Korea.