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South Korea announces three new MERS cases

South Korea's Health Ministry has reported three news cases of MERS. The announcement comes a day after no new cases were reported, the first time in nearly a month.

Hopes were high on Saturday after

South Korea announced the first day in which no new cases

of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus had been recorded in nearly a month.

However, the country's Health Ministry reported Sunday that three new cases of the MERS virus had been identified.

The new cases include two health care workers, bringing the total number of those infected to 169.

One of the newly infected health care employees is believed to have contracted the virus after treating a MERS patient at Samsung Medical Center in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

More than 4,000 people have been quarantined due to exposure to the virus.

The South Korean outbreak is the largest outside of Saudi Arabia, where the virus was first observed in 2012. The outbreak in Saudi Arabia has left more than 400 people dead and 1,000 infected, according to the kingdom's health officials.

The majority of people who come in contact with an infected person do not contract the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, around 36 percent of MERS cases result in a fatality, although in South Korea the figure is significantly lower, leveling out at 10 percent.

According to the World Health Organization, there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments available for the virus.

The outbreak in South Korea began in mid-May after a 68-year-old man returned to the country following a trip to Saudi Arabia. The government was heavily criticized for its sluggish response, after the infected man visited several medical centers before being diagnosed with MERS.

ls/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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