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Iran Press TV

New MERS cases close over 700 schools in South Korea

Iran Press TV

Thu Jun 4, 2015 9:35AM

More than 700 education centers have been temporarily closed in South Korea amid a surge in the number of people infected by the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus.

On Thursday, officials suspended classes in hundreds of schools, kindergartens and colleges in response to growing fears over an outbreak of MERS, which has so far claimed two lives in the country.

South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare confirmed on Thursday that five more cases of MERS were identified, increasing the total number of the South Koreans diagnosed with the disease to 35.

Some 209 schools earlier suspended classes nationwide due to fears that students might be infected with MERS, according to Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs and Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea.

The first case of the infection in South Korea was identified when a 68-year-old man tested positive with the virus after coming back from Saudi Arabia on May 20.

According to reports, more than 1,660 people in South Korea may have been exposed directly or indirectly to the virus so far. They have been quarantined at state-designated facilities or placed under varying levels of observation.

In Seoul, the capital and largest city of South Korea, possible MERS contagion has raised concerns among commuters, obliging them to wear face masks on buses and subways.

The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) said in a report that around 7,000 tourists had called off their planned group trips to the country.

"A mass cancelation of this scale is very unusual... and many travelers cited the MERS outbreak as the main reason," the KTO said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says 1,161 people have so far been globally infected by the deadly virus, which has caused 436 deaths in more than 20 countries.

The MERS, which was first traced in Saudi Arabia in 2012, is a cousin of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which is caused by a new type of corona-virus. There is no vaccine or cure for the MERS, yet, with its fatality rate reaching 40.7 percent.


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