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South Korea Reports 3 New MERS Deaths

Workers wearing protective gears, spray antiseptic solution as a precaution against the spread of MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, virus at the Sejong Culture Center in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, June 16, 2015.

South Korea has reported three new deaths as a result of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), bringing the death toll to 19 in the largest outbreak of MERS outside the Middle East.

Seoul health officials also on Tuesday announced they discovered four new cases of the deadly virus, meaning there is now a total of 154 reported MERS infections in South Korea.

Three of the latest infections occurred at the Samsung Medical Center, one of Seoul's largest and most prestigious hospitals that has been at the center of the outbreak.

The hospital on Sunday announced it would suspend all non-emergency surgeries and temporarily not accept new patients. No visitors are being allowed at the facility.

Officials say the outbreak has been contained to medical facilities and has not spread to the general population. They also say the number of new cases is on the decline.

Over 5,500 people in South Korea have been placed in quarantine after having possibly come into contact with individuals infected with the disease.

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

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.

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