S Korea reports 4 new MERS cases, takes total to 126 cases

SEOUL - South Korea on Friday reported four more cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome ( MERS), bringing to 126 the total number of people here diagnosed with the potentially deadly virus.

The number of fatalities in the largest outbreak of the virus outside Saudi Arabia remained at 10 as of early Friday, the Health Ministry said.

A Seoul hospital has been closed temporarily over fears the facility might be another source of mass infection, the first such closure in the capital.

Mediheal Hospital will remain shut until June 23, a Seoul City spokesman told AFP.

A total of 52 health care facilities including 18 in Seoul and 16 in the surrounding Gyeonggi Province have been exposed to the virus.

Pyeongtaek St. Mary's hospital in Pyeongtaek City, where the first wave of 37 patients were diagnosed, will also remain closed until Friday, based on the incubation period for the disease.

But Samsung Medical Centre, where 58 out of the 126 confirmed cases contracted the disease - the largest single outbreak - remains open after being sanitised.

More than 3,800 people who came into close contact with those infected are under quarantine, either at their homes or at healthcare facilities.

The first infected patient was diagnosed on May 20 after a trip to Saudi Arabia.

The 68-year-old man visited four medical facilities, infecting other patients and medics, before he was finally diagnosed, sparking criticism that authorities had bungled the initial response.