Mers cases in South Korea rise to 150 with one more death, five new cases

People wearing face masks in Seoul on June 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP 
People wearing face masks in Seoul on June 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP 

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea reported on Monday its 16th death and five new cases in the growing outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) which has placed more than 5,200 people under quarantine and sparked widespread alarm.

The death of a 58-year-old man put the total number of fatalities from Mers at 16 since the outbreak began less than a month ago.

The victim had diabetes, the health ministry said in a statement. The total number of cases - including the 16 deaths - rose to 150, it said, adding that 17 patients were in unstable condition.

The five new patients - aged from 39 to 84 - were infected in hospitals in cities including Seoul and Daejeon, 140km south of the capital.

Among them was a nurse who had performed CPR on an infected patient in Daejeon and one infected in Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul - the epicentre of the outbreak where more than 70 patients, visitors and medical staff contracted the virus.

The outbreak - the largest outside Saudi Arabia - started on May 20 when a 68-year-old man was diagnosed after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia. Since then the virus has spread at an unusually rapid pace, sparking alarm in Asia's fourth-largest economy.

Almost all patients were infected in hospital. The Samsung hospital - one of the country's largest - suspended most services on Sunday to help curb the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

In Saudi Arabia, more than 950 people were infected and 412 died from the disease. There is no vaccine for Mers which has a mortality rate of 35 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation.

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