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    Jun 11, 2015

    HK's 3 suspected Mers patients travelled to S. Korea


    AT LEAST three suspected cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) were reported in Hong Kong yesterday, as an outbreak in South Korea triggers alarm elsewhere in Asia.

    The three patients, all young women, had not visited healthcare facilities in South Korea, said the South China Morning Post.

    One of them was rushed to a Hong Kong hospital yesterday on suspicion that she had contracted the potentially deadly Mers virus, Agence France-Presse reported.

    The unidentified woman had sought treatment at a clinic in Tsing Yi train station for a runny nose and fever, after returning to Hong Kong from a trip to South Korea.

    "The Centre for Health Protection received a report of a suspected case of (Mers) from a private doctor involving a 22-year-old woman," the government health body said in a statement.

    The suspected Mers carrier visited South Korea from May 23 to 27. "She (had) a runny nose on June 7 and had a fever on June 9," the centre said, adding that she is in isolation at a hospital and is in stable condition.

    Health workers wore protective gear as the area around the clinic was cordoned off.

    But just hours later, two more suspected Mers cases were reported. One of these patients had visited Seoul between May 26 and 30. The other patient was in South Korea between June 5 and 6.

    Hong Kong had previously quarantined 19 people as a precaution against Mers and had also isolated suspected cases, which turned out to be false alarms.

    In the worst outbreak outside Saudi Arabia, nine people have died in South Korea and 108 have been infected, prompting President Park Geun Hye to postpone a visit to the United States. The first infected patient was diagnosed on May 20. The two latest fatalities announced yesterday were cancer patients.

    All of those who died in South Korea had already been suffering serious ailments before testing positive for Mers, the country's Health Ministry said.

    The Chinese authorities yesterday warned that "the risk of importing (Mers) cases (into China) has increased significantly".

    The Mers virus is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed 299 people in Hong Kong in 2003.

    There is no vaccine or cure for Mers which, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data, has a fatality rate of around 35 per cent. WHO has not recommended curbs on travel or trade.