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(2nd LD) S. Korea reports another MERS death, one new case

All Headlines 11:40 June 19, 2015

(ATTN: RECASTS lead; UPDATES with remarks from a ministry official, more information in paras 10, 15-17)

SEJONG, June 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported another death from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) but only one new case Friday, which officials here said may indicate the outbreak is on the wane.

The deceased was a 75-year-old patient who was undergoing treatment at a hospital, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Other personal information was withheld for privacy reasons.

The latest fatality marked the 24th MERS-related death in the country.

The country also reported an additional infection case that put the number of people diagnosed with the disease at 166.

The new patient is believed to have caught the disease while caring for a family member hospitalized in Seoul's Samsung Medical Center.

The World Health Organization has noted the country's tradition of family members staying with sick ones in hospital rooms may have helped further drive the spread of MERS in South Korea.

Samsung Medical Center and some 80 other hospitals have been the source of nearly all infections here.

The Samsung hospital has voluntarily shut down most of its operations at least until Wednesday.

Still, it marked the lowest daily increase in the number of patients since the outbreak here was first confirmed on May 20, the ministry noted.

An official from the ministry's emergency control center said this led them to believe "the spread of the disease is now on the decline."

As of Friday, 30 people previously diagnosed with MERS have been discharged from hospitals following complete recoveries.

The remaining 112 patients are in hospitals while 16 of them are currently in unstable condition, the ministry said.

The country is also isolating people suspected of having the disease after coming in close contact with MERS patients.

The number of people in isolation came to 5,930 as of Friday, down nearly 800 from the previous day, according to the ministry.

However, the ministry noted the number could rise significantly as some 41,900 others may have been exposed to the MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) by visiting Samsung Medical Center since the hospital became affected by the potentially deadly disease.

Also a MERS patient was found Thursday to have traveled to the country's southern resort island of Jeju prior to diagnosis but possibly after being infected with the MERS-CoV.

Already, at least 22 people, including 14 cabin crewmembers of the patient's flight, have been ordered into isolation for possible infection.

MERS is an infectious disease that is fairly new to humans. Since the first case in Saudi Arabia in 2012, some 1,100 cases had been reported globally before the outbreak here.

In South Korea, the fatality rate of the disease currently is 14.5 percent, compared with over 40 percent tallied before the outbreak here.


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