Seoul, two more MERS victims brings toll to 35
Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After eight days' respite, the South Korean health authorities today (July 8) reported two new deaths due to Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), bringing the total death toll to 35 since the beginning of the infection.
The dead - whose identities were not disclosed for privacy reasons - are a woman in her fifties with an already precarious health condition, and a man of 70. Both were part of a group termed"high risk" by the Ministry of Health.
The Yonhap agency, quoting the Minister of Health, reports that 32 of the 35 victims since the beginning of the infection were elderly and had serious health problems complicated by MERS.
The persons who have been diagnosed with the disease remain 186 (of which only 32 have needed hospitalization) and for three days there have been no new cases of infection.
MERS is caused by a coronavirus and is similar to SARS, which flared up in 2003, killing at least a thousand people. However, so far the MERS virus has been far deadlier than SARS. In fact, its mortality rate is around 50 per cent compared to 10 per cent for the latter.
The outbreak started on 20 May when a 68-year-old man was diagnosed after returning from a trip to the Middle East. Despite criticism and calls for more information to be released to the public, the government of President Park Geun-hye has stuck with total privacy, refusing to release victims’ identity and even their geographic location. Critics have slammed South Korean authorities for trying to downplay the seriousness of the outbreak (as China did during the SARS crisis).