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South Korea Reports No New MERS Cases

FILE - A scientist tests a sample from someone who recently returned from South Korea and is suspected of MERS infection, inside a lab at the National Institute of Health Department of Medical Sciences on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, June 18, 2015.

South Korea said no new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, have been reported Saturday, raising hopes the country is winning the battle against the deadly virus.

So far, 24 people have died from MERS in South Korea and 166 have been sickened by the virus.

More than 6,700 people in South Korea have been placed in quarantine after having possibly come into contact with individuals infected with the disease.

Elsewhere in the region, Thailand confirmed its first case of MERS this past week.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha urged the public not to panic Friday and said the country was well-prepared to handle the situation.

Monitored in Thailand

Fifty-nine people in Thailand are being monitored for the virus at hospitals or homes, including two relatives of the man who has been diagnosed with MERS, the Health Ministry said.

The World Health Organization Wednesday said South Korean officials failed to implement sufficient measures to prevent the spread of the disease, for which there is no cure or vaccine.

Among the main factors the WHO cited as contributing to the outbreak were a lack of awareness about the disease among health care workers and inadequate infection prevention and control measures in hospitals.

But the Geneva-based organization said it does not consider the MERS outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

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.