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South Korea reports no new cases in MERS outbreak

South Korea has reported no new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome for the first time in more than a fortnight. Meanwhile, North Korea claims to have come up with a cure for the disease and other deadly ailments.

South Korea's Health Ministry announced on Saturday that for the first time in 16 days it had recorded no new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the country. It said that the number of fatalities associated with the biggest outbreak of the disease outside of Saudi Arabia remained at 24, with a total of 166 confirmed infections.

This came a day after the ministry reported that it believed the outbreak was leveling off, after

recording just one new confirmed case of MERS

on Friday.

The ministry said on Saturday that six more patients had recovered and been released from hospital, cutting the number now receiving medical treatment to 106. This brought the number of people who have been successfully treated and discharged from hospital to 36, since the first case in the South Korean outbreak was confirmed on May 20.

Pyongyang claims cure for MERS and other ailments

Meanwhile, North Korea has claimed to have developed a vaccine that is "very effective" in treating not only

MERS,

but also Ebola and AIDS. Pyongyang's KCNA news agency reported on Friday that the Kumdang-2 vaccine was able to treat these and a wide range of other diseases for which Western researchers have so far failed to discover cures.

"Malicious virus infections like SARS, Ebola and MERS are diseases that are related to immune systems, so they can be easily treated by Kumdang-2 injection drug, which is a strong immune reviver," reported KCNA, the official news agency of North Korea's Stalinist regime.

According to KCNA, the key ingredient of the injection is ginseng grown from fertilizer mixed with rare earth elements.

Despite claiming to have such a miracle cure, the North, which says it has been testing the vaccine for more than a quarter of a century, is reported to have imposed strict screening measures at airports and border crossings since the outbreak of MERS in South Korea.

pfd/cmk (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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