South Korea reported its seventh death from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on Tuesday as eight new infections brought the total number of cases in the country to 95 in the largest outbreak outside the Middle East.
Hong Kong has issued a "red alert" travel warning for South Korea, urging its citizens against non-essential visits and defining the outbreak as a "significant threat." All tours from Hong Kong to South Korea have been cancelled, excluding cruises, until June 30.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that the outbreak in South Korea was the largest seen outside the Middle East and its experts have begun work in the county to review the country’s response and analyse the virus.
Alison Clements-Hunt, a spokesperson from the WHO Director-General's office in Geneva, tried to calm down fears.
"There are a number of cases in Korea at the moment, it is the largest outbreak we've seen outside of the Middle East, but the pattern is not dissimilar to what we could expect to see based what knowledge we have of the virus. Again, I have to stress that it is a newly identified virus in terms of virus longevity. And in Korea, the first case may not have identified straight away and therefore, some transition took place before the Korean authorities knew what they were dealing with," she said.
The outbreak started after a man brought the virus home from a trip to the Middle East trip on May. The seventh fatality was a 68-year-old woman who was infected by a MERS patient in a hospital, as were the others.
South Korea's new cases bring the total MERS cases globally to 1,244, with at least 446 related deaths. There is no vaccine or cure for the virus.
Thousands of people have canceled trips to South Korea despite assurances from the WHO, and many South Koreans are still uneasy with the government ordering more than 2,200 schools to close due to MERS.