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Positive signs show MERS outbreak may be subsiding

Cases of the potentially deadly respiratory disease MERS have been decreasing in South Korea. This positive news was tempered, however, but reports of the first case in Thailand.

The South Korean government announced on Friday that the MERS outbreak that has killed 24 people appeared to be on its way out in their country, a day after

Thailand reported the first case

of the dangerous respiratory illness in Southeast Asia.

South Korea registered only one new case on Friday, the lowest level of the past two weeks. This made a total of 166 confirmed cases since the disease was brought to the country in May by a man who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia. MERS has been present in the Middle East since at least 2012.

"Apparently, the outbreak has started subsiding," a health ministry official told the press. "But we have to wait and see whether more cases occur," in hospitals battling the virus, he added.

There are currently 112 patients in Korean hospitals to be treated for MERS while a further 30 have recovered and been released.

The administration of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye came under fire for its initial handling of the disease, which

the World Health Organization (WHO)

, criticized as inadequate. Park has also faced a backlash from within her own borders, approval ratings dropped to a dismal 29 percent this week, the lowest since she took office in 2013.

WHO, however, was cautiously optimistic of the health ministry's news, saying Seoul was now "on a very good footing."

Also on Friday, health authorities in Bangkok, Thailand said that an Omani man found to have MERS was "stable" but that they were monitoring a further 59 people he had come into contact with.

es/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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