MERS cases rise to 50 in S.Korea with 9 more infections

Updated: 2015-06-06 19:24


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MERS cases rise to 50 in S.Korea with 9 more infections

South Korean soldiers wear masks during a ceremony marking Korean Memorial Day at the National Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea on June 6, 2015.[Photo/CFP]

SEOUL -- Nine more infections with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) were reported Saturday in South Korea, sending the total number to 50 since the first case was identified on May 20, the health ministry said.

Among the new cases, three contagions occurred in Pyeongtaek St. Mary's Hospital where the patient zero, called super spreader, infected more than 30 people, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The first patient had been admitted to the hospital in Pyeongtaek, about 60 km south of capital Seoul, for three days from May 15.

Five new cases were those who stayed at the emergency room of Samsung Medical Center in Seoul on May 27 or May 28 together with the 14th infectee.

It raised fears for the spread of the MERS virus in Seoul with a population of more than 10 million through the hospital.

The total number of people infected at the hospital reaches seven, including a doctor who allegedly had contact with thousands of unspecified individuals.

The Seoul metropolitan government said on Thursday that the 38-year-old doctor joined an event, attended by 1,565 people, and strode down the street in Seoul under suspected conditions of MERS infection.

The 14th infectee, who came to Seoul on May 27, was hospitalized at the Samsung Medical Center's emergency room, where the infectees had contact with the 35-year-old man.

The man had been staying at the Pyeongtaek St. Mary's Hospital along with the patient zero.

The ninth case was confirmed on Friday after contacting with the 16th infectee at an unnamed hospital where the tertiary infectee's family were hospitalized together with the 16th infectee.

Concern about the spread of the disease has led to the closure of schools or class cancellation at more than 1,100 schools nation wide, but some shopping outlets continued to be packed with people at the weekend.

More than 3,000 people have been advised to stay at home in voluntary quarantine or have been quarantined at medical facilities. But a growing number of them were being released from quarantine after no signs of symptoms for days.

The WHO has said it would send a team to review the situation and assess the response. It has not recommended travel restrictions but thousands of people have cancelled trips to South Korea.