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Man hospitalized in Slovakia with suspected case of MERS

With a South Korean man in Slovakia being tested for the MERS virus, the deadly disease may have arrived in Europe. Authorities have taken precautions, placing the patient in isolation in Bratislava.

A Bratislava hospital confirmed that it is testing a 38-year-old South Korean man for possible Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Spokeswoman Petra Stano Matasovska of Bratislava's university hospital said tests had been sent to a laboratory in Prague in the Czech Republic, and that it expected the results back on Sunday.

"He is a 38-year-old man from South Korea who is suffering from diarrhea, fever and lesions on his skin," Matasovska said.

Local media said that the man had arrived in Slovakia on June 3 and worked for a subcontractor of South Korean carmaker Kia. He was reportedly transported from the city of Zilina, 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Bratislava, to the Slovak capital in order to undergo tests. The patient was described as in a stable condition.

Kept in isolation

The Slovak health ministry said the patient was being kept in isolation. The head of the local health services in Zilina, Martin Kapasny, said that precautionary measures were being taken at the hotel in Zilina where the man had stayed.

South Korea's Health Ministry reported seven new MERS cases on Sunday, taking the total to 145. All of the cases are believed to be linked to hospital settings.

The outbreak has been described by the World Health Organization as "large and complex" and has become the

worst outbreak of the virus outside of Saudi Arabia

.

MERS is caused by a coronavirus belonging to the same family as the one that causes SARS. It is more deadly than SARS but does not spread as easily. There is no vaccine or cure for MERS, which,

according to WHO data

, has a fatality rate of around 35 percent.

ss/bk (Reuters, AFP)

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