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    Jun 03, 2015

    Mers kills 2 in S. Korea as cases rise


    TWO people in South Korea have died from the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), and are the country's first fatalities from the virus. Six more were diagnosed with Mers on Monday night as other Asian countries put in place measures to contain the virus.

    The new cases bring the total number of those infected in South Korea to 25, including the two dead victims.

    One was a 58-year-old woman who had contact with South Korea's first patient and died of acute respiratory failure on Monday.

    The other victim was a 71-year-old man who had a history of kidney ailments and had been on respiratory support, Reuters reported yesterday.

    The two deaths were the latest fatalities from Mers in Asia since a man died in Malaysia in April last year, according to Agence France-Presse.

    The first Mers case in South Korea - a 68-year-old man diagnosed after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia - was reported on May 20. Around 750 people who were exposed directly or indirectly to the virus have been placed under varying levels of quarantine.

    Kwon Jun Wook, a senior Health Ministry official leading an emergency task force team, was quoted by The Japan Times yesterday as saying: "We are tracking down additional cases (of tertiary infection)...with the possibility of more new infections in mind."

    He said that more people were expected to be quarantined or put under observation. Some 240 people had been banned from travelling overseas, he added, and three patients were in critical condition.

    Mers is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which killed hundreds of people when it appeared in Asia in 2003.

    More than 20 countries have been affected by the Mers virus, which has no known cure or vaccine, with the most cases in Saudi Arabia, where it has claimed more than 400 lives since 2012.

    Places in Asia affected by the virus include China and Hong Kong, after a 44-year-old South Korean man flew to Hong Kong from Seoul on May 26 before travelling to Huizhou in Guangdong by bus. He is being treated under quarantine in a Huizhou hospital.

    Agence France-Presse reported yesterday that Hong Kong had placed 18 people seated near the infected man on the flight from Seoul under mandatory quarantine.

    The South China Morning Post said yesterday that, as an added measure to ensure visitors to Hong Kong are giving accurate information, they will have to sign a health assessment form.

    The South Korean, surnamed Kim, is the first patient in China with Mers and came into close contact with 77 people in Guangdong. Of these, 67 have been quarantined and no abnormalities have been found as of Monday, the China Daily reported yesterday.

    China's state media said hundreds of people had cancelled trips to South Korea, while Thailand and Vietnam said they were reinforcing monitoring of inbound passengers at airports, according to a report by Agence France-Presse yesterday.