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South Korea confirms second case of MERS virus; third case possible

Arriving passengers from the Middle East pass by a thermal camera at Incheon airport, west of Seoul, South Korea, on May 21, 2015, as health authorities stepped up quarantine measures following the first confirmed case the previous day of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea.

[SEOUL] South Korean health officials have confirmed the country's second case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in a patient who nursed her infected husband before he was diagnosed with the disease after a trip to Bahrain.

The woman is in stable condition. A 76-year-old man who shared the hospital room with the first confirmed patient had developed a high fever on Wednesday, a statement from the health ministry said.

"The first patient is getting better, and we need to observe how the second patient will be as she was just confirmed for the disease and is in stable condition though," an official at the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention told Reuters by phone.

The ministry said on Wednesday it saw no chance of the disease spreading into the wider population because those who had been in contact with the first patient have been isolated. The original patient was in stable condition.

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The disease's fatality rate is 30-40 per cent, and incubation period is two to 14 days, experts say.

"The 40 per cent death rate is quite high. If infected, patients in many cases need to have artificial respiration treatments for respiratory failures," Choi Jun Yong, an associate professor at the infectious diseases division of Severance Hospital, told Reuters by phone.

First identified in humans in 2012, MERS is caused by a coronavirus, from the same family as the one that caused a deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in China in 2003. There is no cure or vaccine.

The World Health Organisation has had reports of 1,118 cases, including 423 deaths. There is usually a surge of cases in the northern spring and most cases have come from hospital transmission.