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(2nd LD) S. Korea confirms 5 new cases of MERS, bringing total to 35

2015/06/04 14:27

SEJONG/SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported five additional cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Thursday, raising the number of people diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease to 35.

Two of the five people newly diagnosed with MERS are staff members of two hospitals that had treated patients prior to their diagnosis, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Every patient is now isolated and being treated at state-designated hospitals.

As of Wednesday, some 1,300 other people were in isolation at undisclosed medical institutes or their homes for possible infection.

They are those who have come in close contact with any of the people diagnosed.

The number had remained below 100 at the beginning of the week as the government maintained no tertiary transmission of the disease had been reported throughout the world.

Seoul confirmed such a case on Tuesday, then again on Wednesday in a 60-year-old male who had shared the same hospital room with a patient who was later diagnosed with MERS.

Vice Finance Minister Joo Hyung-hwan (C) chairs a meeting of government officials aimed at coping with the MERS outbreak in Seoul on June 4, 2015. (Yonhap) Vice Finance Minister Joo Hyung-hwan (C) chairs a meeting of government officials aimed at coping with the MERS outbreak in Seoul on June 4, 2015. (Yonhap)

Tertiary infection means any of the 35 people diagnosed so far may transmit the disease that, until its first outbreak in South Korea on May 20, had a very high fatality rate of more than 40 percent globally.

So far, South Korea has confirmed two MERS-related deaths.

MERS is a viral respiratory illness that is fairly new to humans with only some 1,100 confirmed cases reported throughout the world since the first case was reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

There currently is no vaccine or treatment for the disease.

The government, meanwhile, set up a joint inspection team Thursday to coordinate policies and respond to new outbreaks quickly and effectively.

The task force, headed by a deputy finance minister, will also be tasked with monitoring the impact of the outbreak on the consumption, tourism, hospitality and cultural industries. In addition, it will examine the fallout of MERS on regional economies and even foreign investment.

"It will coordinate government responses and greatly beef up monitoring," the finance ministry said. "The government will provide special support for affected industries."

   bdk@yna.co.kr

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