MERS infections in S. Korea surge to 87 with 23 new cases

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The number of South Koreans diagnosed with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) surged to 87 on Monday as 23 new cases were added, the health ministry said.

South Korea became the world's most MERS-contagious except Saudi Arabia, where more than 1,000 cases were identified since the first case was reported in 2012. South Korea topped the United Arab Emirates, in which 76 infections were detected.

Among the 23 new cases, 17 people were infected from the 14th patient at the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul for three days from May 27, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The 14th infectee was estimated to have transported the virus from the Pyeongtaek St. Mary's Hospital, where the first patient was hospitalized for three days from May 15, to the Samsung Medical Center as he traveled to Seoul by bus from the hospital in Pyeongtaek, some 60 km south of Seoul.

Those infected at the Samsung Medical Center soared to 34. People catching the virus at the Pyeongtaek hospital were unchanged at 37.

The remaining six new cases came from the 16th patient at two hospitals in Daejeon, a city at the center of South Korea.

Among them, four people contracted the virus at Daecheong Hospital, with the other two catching it at Konyang University Hospital. Those infected at the two hospitals increased to seven respectively.

A 75-year-old female patient, diagnosed with the MERS Monday, visited two other hospitals in Seoul for two days from June 5 after being exposed to the corona virus at the Samsung Medical Center.

The health authorities asked people visiting the two hospitals to be put under self-quarantine after reporting their visit to the authorities, not to visit other hospitals.

The MERS is a respiratory illness caused by a new type of corona-virus, similar to the SARS virus that killed more than 770 people worldwide following a 2003 outbreak. There is no known vaccine or treatment for the MERS, of which fatality rate reaches 40.7 percent.

The first MERS case was spotted in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The World Health Organization has reported more than 1,000 cases of MERS globally and more than 400 deaths. Endi

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