An 80-year-old South Korean man has died after contracting MERS, bringing the death toll in the country to six. Nearly 90 people have contracted the virus, as authorities desperately try to prevent new infections.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) claimed its sixth victim on Monday after an 80-year-old man died in Daejeon, 140 kilometers (about 86 miles) south of Seoul. The patient had been suffering from pneumonia when he contracted the virus at a hospital, city officials said.
South Korea has reported 23 new cases of the viral epidemic, raising the number of infections to 87, including the six dead.
Among the 23 new cases, 17 had been infected at the Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul, the Health Ministry said. All new infections until now had been contracted at the hospital, with the virus spreading between patients, staff and families.
Authorities have said there was a possibility that additional patients had been infected at the medical center in the past weeks. The hospital has placed more than 900 patients and staff under observation.
'All out efforts'
The government, criticized for its poor response to the outbreak, has promised "all out efforts" to control the illness. Hundreds of public events have been cancelled as a result and more than 2,300 people have been placed under quarantine. Officials were also planning to track the mobile phones of these persons in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
Most MERS cases have been seen in Saudi Arabia, one of 20 countries where the disease has been found. The epidemic in Seoul is the second largest worldwide.
The viral infection is considered to be related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed hundreds in a 2003 epidemic across Asia. The MERS-causing coronavirus is a less infectious, but more deadly relative of SARS.
mg/cmk (Reuters, AFP)