South Korea has reported the first two deaths from an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers).
A 58-year-old woman who had contact with South Korea's first patient died of acute respiratory failure on Monday, the Health Ministry said. A 71-year-old man with a history of kidney ailments also died.
There have been 1,167 cases of Mers worldwide, of which 479 people have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. South Korea now has the third highest number of cases after Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, the organisation says.
Mers is an emerging illness that is thought to originate in bats, and to have been passed on to humans by camels. It can trigger respiratory infections that lead to pneumonia and, worse, kidney failure. The virus can be passed through close contact between people but is not easily contagious.
China reported its first Mers case last week in a South Korean man who tested positive after breaking a voluntary house quarantine, flying to Hong Kong and then to mainland China.
South Korean authorities are currently considering a ban on overseas travel for the 680 people that have been isolated for possible infection after coming into contact with those who have the infection.
The World Health Organisation said last week there had been no sustained human-to-human spread in South Korea, and that it was not recommending screening of passengers or the imposition of travel or trade restrictions. But the news of two deaths could change that.
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