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Over 200 Schools close as MERS spreads in S Korea

South Korean school students put on face masks during a special class on MERS virus at an elementary school in Seoul on June 3, 2015.

More than 200 schools in South Korea have been suspended to prevent the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) infection among young students, officials said.

Since June 3, 209 schools have suspended or closed classes nationwide due to fears that students might be infected with the MERS, Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs and Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea said at a meeting with school superintendents.

Almost 90 percent of closed schools are located in Gyeonggi province, where Seoul, the capital and largest city of South Korea, is located.

The province’s superintendent, Lee Jae-Jung, said that 183 schools have been closed or suspended in the province, considered the most dangerous area in South Korea because of possible MERS contagion.

Moreover, five new cases of MERS were identified and the number of South Koreans diagnosed with the disease increased to 30, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said on Wednesday.

South Korean hospital workers carry a man in front of a quarantine tent for suspected MERS cases at the Seoul National University Hospital on June 2, 2015. (AFP photo)


Reports said nearly 700 people in South Korea have been exposed directly or indirectly to the virus and quarantined or placed under special observation.

On Monday, South Korea’s Health Ministry had announced two deaths from the MERS. A 58-year-old woman and a 71-year-old man were the first victims of the deadly virus in South Korea.  

The source of the outbreak has been identified as a 68-year-old man tested positive with the virus after coming back from Saudi Arabia on May 20.

The MERS is a cousin of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which is caused by a new type of corona-virus. There is no vaccine or cure for the MERS yet, with its fatality rate reaching 40.7 percent.

The first case of the MERS was traced in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The World Health Organization has reported more than 1,000 cases of infection globally and more than 400 deaths since then.

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