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(LEAD) S. Korea reports one more death from MERS with no additional case

2015/06/28 09:44

SEJONG, June 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported an additional death from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome on Sunday, bringing its death toll to 32.

However, the number of people diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease continued to stand at 182 as the country reported no additional infection case overnight, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The deceased was a 55-year-old patient, whose identity was withheld for privacy reasons.

Ministry officials said the death marked one of the rare cases with the deceased having no existing health conditions.

Out of 32 MERS-related deaths, 29, or 90.6 percent, involved people of old age or those with existing health conditions, such as diabetes or cancer, that were apparently worsened by MERS.

With the latest MERS death, the fatality rate of the disease in the country climbed to 17.6 percent, still lower than the over 40 percent tallied globally until the outbreak here.

Out of the 182 people diagnosed with the disease so far, 59 still remained hospitalized with 15 of them currently in unstable conditions, the ministry said.

So far 91 people previously diagnosed with MERS have been discharged from the hospital following complete recoveries.

Since the country confirmed its first or index case on May 20, over 15,500 other people have been subject to isolation for possible infection after coming in close contact with MERS patients.

As of Sunday, 2,562 people still remained in isolation, mostly at their own homes, as suspected cases, according to the ministry. The number slightly increased from 2,467 on the previous day.

MERS is a viral respiratory disease first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. There currently exists no vaccine or treatment for the disease, apparently one of reasons for such a high fatality rate of the disease, at least until the outbreak here.

In South Korea, hospitals have been a major, if not the only, source of infection with two possible exceptions involving an ambulance driver and a paramedic who helped transport MERS patients.

Some 90 hospitals have been affected by the disease with some of them having to shut down parts or most of their operations temporarily.

A list of the MERS-affected hospitals is daily updated and available at the Health Ministry's Web site at www.mw.go.kr.

While hospitals have been blamed as a major source of infection, the country's tradition of family members staying with their loved ones in hospital rooms has been pointed out, also by the World Health Organization, as a major factor driving the outcome here.

Most of the 182 diagnosed with MERS are either friends or family members of those diagnosed earlier or those who had shared the same hospital rooms with MERS patients.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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