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South Korea reports seventh fatality in MERS outbreak

South Korean officials have reported that a seventh person has died from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome since the start of an outbreak there last month. However, the number of new cases dropped from a day earlier.

The South Korean Health Ministry reported on Tuesday that a 68-year-old woman who had apparently come in contact with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in an emergency room in a Seoul hospital had died.

It also stressed that she, like the

previous six people to die in the South Korean outbreak of the disease

, had a serious heath issue - in her case a heart ailment - when she contracted the MERS virus.

Eight new cases of MERS were also confirmed on Tuesday, but that's sharply down from the 23 new cases on Monday.

Three of Tuesday's new cases came into contact with MERS in the same Seoul hospital emergency room as the latest victim of the disease. The ministry said this brought to 37 the number of people connected to the emergency room - out of a total of 95 confirmed infections. All the rest of the cases stemmed from other health care facilities.

Thousands in quarantine

The outbreak, first confirmed on May 20, has led to around 2,500 people being ordered into quarantine, either at hospitals or at home. Almost 2,000 schools, mainly in and around Seoul, have temporarily shut down.

The MERS outbreak in South Korea is the biggest to date outside of Saudi Arabia.

According to

the World Health Organization

, a total of more than 1,200 cases of MERS have been confirmed worldwide, with almost 450 deaths attributed at least in part to the disease.

pfd/cmk (Reuters, AFP)

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