South Korea reports seven new MERS cases

SEOUL, June 14, 2015 (AFP) - South Korea reported Sunday seven new cases of the MERS virus in an outbreak that has killed 14 people, as one citizen was hospitalised in Slovakia after being suspected of carrying the disease there.

The seven new cases put the total number of infections of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in South Korea at 145, the health ministry said Sunday.

Three of the new cases were infected in Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul, one of the country's largest hospitals where more than 70 people have contracted the virus, it said.

Among them was a paramedic who helped transport a MERS patient to Samsung hospital on June 7. On Saturday, authorities announced that the ambulance driver also involved in transporting the patient - who died three days later - had also been infected.

One of the other new patients was infected in the central city of Daejeon and another in the city of Hwaseong, about 43 kilometres (26.7 miles) south of Seoul.

The ministry reported no new fatalities, and said 10 patients so far had recovered and been released from hospital.

As the outbreak continued to expand, a South Korean man thought to have contracted MERS was hospitalised in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Saturday.

The man reportedly arrived in Slovakia on June 3 and works for a subcontractor of Seoul carmaker Kia, which runs a plant in the central European country.

There is no vaccine or cure for MERS which, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data, has a fatality rate of around 35 per cent.

The outbreak in the South began when a 68-year-old man was diagnosed on May 20 after a trip to Saudi Arabia.

The virus since then has been spreading at an unusually fast pace, sparking widespread alarm in the Asia's fourth-largest economy.

A team of WHO experts who visited Seoul warned that the outbreak in the South was "large and complex" and more cases should be expected.

But it also said it had found no evidence of transmission of the virus in communities outside hospitals.

The outbreak also sparked alarm elsewhere in Asia including Hong Kong, which advised last week its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the South.