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    Jun 05, 2015

    Seoul confirms 3rd Mers death as public fears grow


    SOUTH Korea confirmed yesterday that an 82-year-old man who died a day earlier was infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), marking the third death amid the outbreak of the virus.

    Meanwhile, South Korea's Health Ministry is still analysing the virus and has not determined any mutation so far.

    It said it is still waiting for DNA results, reported Bloomberg.

    Mers is a strain of coronavirus that has a high chance of producing genetic variants in the process of infection, according to South Korea's Joongang Ilbo newspaper.

    The man who died on Wednesday had been hospitalised with asthma and bacterial pneumonia, but shared a room with others suffering from Mers, the Health Ministry said in a statement yesterday.

    The victim is the 36th person confirmed to have been infected with Mers in South Korea, and was among six found to have the virus yesterday.

    A week into the crisis that has caused more than 900 school closures and more than 1,600 to be quarantined, government silence on the hospitals where Mers was spread has drawn criticism and contributed to panic, according to Bloomberg.

    Disclosing hospitals with Mers patients would "cause excessive anxiety among those people who are in or have been to the hospitals and create misunderstanding about them", said Kwon Jun Wook, chief of the Mers management team at the Health Ministry.

    The government is reluctant to allow international specialists in to help, the Korea Times reported yesterday, saying it does not want its ability to handle the crisis being questioned.

    The first Mers case in South Korea - reported on May 20 - was of a 68-year-old man diagnosed after a trip to Saudi Arabia.

    Since then, more than 1,660 people who may have been exposed directly or indirectly to the virus have been placed under varying levels of quarantine.

    While around 160 were isolated at state-designated facilities, most were told to stay home and strictly limit their interactions with other people, reported Agence France-Presse.

    In Seoul, growing public concern has been reflected in the daily increase in the number of commuters wearing face masks on buses and subways.

    The anxiety has spread beyond South Korea, with the Korea Tourism Organisation reporting yesterday that around 7,000 tourists had cancelled planned group trips to South Korea.

    Mers has now infected 1,161 people globally, with 436 deaths.

    More than 20 countries have been affected, with most cases in Saudi Arabia.

    The World Health Organisation said it expected more infections in South Korea, but stressed that there was "no evidence of sustained transmission in the community".