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South Korea Reports 11th Death from MERS

A tourist wearing a mask to prevent contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) uses her mobile phone at Myeongdong shopping district in central Seoul, South Korea, June 10, 2015.

South Korea has reported its 11th death from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, amid hopes that the outbreak has peaked.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Friday that the latest fatality was a 72-year-old woman who contracted the virus from a MERS patient at a hospital.

Health officials on Friday also reported four new cases of the virus, bringing the total number of known infections to 126 since the outbreak was discovered on May 20.

So far, all of the reported infections have been limited to hospitals, according to officials, who stress that the virus has not spread to the general population.

Thousands thought to have come into contact with infected individuals have been placed under quarantine and thousands of schools remain closed due to the outbreak.

Health officials say that as of Friday, 1,249 people had been released from isolation, sparking hope that the spread of the disease is now on the wane.

The outbreak has prompted President Park Geun-hye to postpone next week's planned visit to the United States.

Fears over the virus have also spread to other parts of Asia, including Hong Kong, which this week issued a "red alert" advising against non-essential travel to South Korea.

Public alarm has been widespread, in part because of false online rumors and also because MERS symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath - all of which are typically associated with non-serious illnesses such as the common cold.

There is no vaccine or cure for MERS, which has a fatality rate of around 35 percent, according to the World Health Organization.

The coronavirus is related to the one that infected thousands during the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has spread to several other countries.