South Korea has reported the first two deaths from an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that has affected 25 people in two weeks, Reuters reported Wednesday.
A 58-year-old woman who’d had contact with South Korea’s first patient, a person who had traveled to the Middle East, died of acute respiratory failure Monday, the health ministry said.
A 71-year-old man with a history of kidney ailments who had been on respiratory support also died.
The ministry reported new confirmed cases Tuesday, bringing the total to 25.
Health ministry official Kwon Jun-wook told reporters Monday that those in quarantine were being held at their homes or in state-run facilities in order to prevent the spread of the virus, BBC News reported.
South Korea now has the third-highest number of cases after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control show.
China reported its first MERS case last week in a South Korean man who tested positive after breaking a voluntary house quarantine, flying to Hong Kong and then travelling to the mainland.
Nurses at the hospital in Huizhou, Guangdong province, where he is being treated, have been reportedly drawing lots to determine who should look after the patient, BBC News said.
The hospital said the ballot was arranged because there were too many volunteers to treat the South Korean man.
But posts on social media suggest many were reluctant to take on the task.
The virus has a death rate of 27 percent, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
South Korean authorities are considering a ban on overseas travel for the nearly 700 people isolated for possible infection.
MERS belongs to the family of coronaviruses that includes the common cold and SARS, and can cause fever, breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure.
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