Mers virus kills sixth person as South Korea scrambles to contain outbreak

The total number of cases in South Korea has reached 87

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An 80-year-old man has become the sixth person to die of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea.

Officials in the city of Daejeon said the man, who died today, contracted the virus from another patient at hospital.

The country’s Health Ministry yesterday confirmed that there were 23 new cases of the virus, of which 17 were infected at the Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul.

This takes the total number of cases in the country up to 87.

But it is thought that South Korea can control the further spreading of the virus.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, deputy Prime Minister Choi Kyung-hwan said: “So far, all the MERS cases have been hospital-associated, and there has been no case of an infection in other social settings.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the deputy prime minister said: “We’re at the stage where MERS can certainly be controlled because all cases in our country are infections in health facilities, not yet having spread community wide.”

The government, criticised for not providing enough information on the outbreak, yesterday named 24 health facilities involved with the virus outbreak.

Officials are keeping a close eye on around 2,500 people who have been placed under quarantine. It is thought that fewer than 10 have broken quarantine rules.

“We are actively tracing their locations, cooperating with police or using other methods,” Jeong Eun-kyeong, a South Korean disease control centre official, told reporters. “We did cellphone tracking in a couple of cases. For contacts we must fine, we will request location tracking and receive data.”

Almost 1,900 schools have been closed, according to Reuters. Singapore has cancelled or postponed school trips to South Korea.

According to the World Health Organisation, there is no vaccine currently available for MERS, and the coronavirus does not pass easily from person to person unless there is close contact.

Additional reporting by Reuters