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122 South Koreans infected with MERS: Health Ministry


South Korea has reported 14 new cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), including a pregnant woman, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 122.

The country’s Health Ministry announced the figure on Thursday, adding that the death toll stood at nine, and there had been no new deaths over the previous 24 hours.

The ministry said that eight of the 14 new cases were infected at Samsung Medical Centre (SMC), a major hospital in the southern part of the capital, Seoul.

A 39-year-old woman in her final trimester of pregnancy was among the cases in the SMC, the most affected hospital in the capital, in which 55 cases contracting the virus have been confirmed so far.

“Of the 122 confirmed cases, this is the first case involving a pregnant woman,” said the ministry, adding that she was “in stable condition.”

According to the report, one of the victims of the deadly virus was infected at another hospital in Hwaseong City, nearly 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Seoul.

It was not yet clear how and where the other five victims were contaminated with the MERS virus, which is considered a deadlier, but less infectious cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

There is no vaccine or cure available for the virus, which was first traced in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

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

According to reports, nearly 3,500 people 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.

Possible MERS contagion has raised widespread public anxiety in the nation, causing over 2,000 schools to shut temporarily in a precautionary measure.

World Health Organization (WHO) data shows that MERS has a fatality rate of around 35 percent.