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South Korea continues to battle MERS outbreak; Saudi Arabia reports 5 cases

(CNN) -- Seven new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, have been confirmed in South Korea, the country's Ministry of Health said Sunday.

Officials in Busan, South Korea's second largest city, reported that a person suffering from MERS died Sunday. If confirmed by the Ministry of Health, that would bring to 15 the number of deaths attributed to the virus. At least 10 people have recovered after being infected and 120 are under treatment, the ministry said.

South Korean health officials this weekend said the outbreak there was slowing, but additional cases were expected.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has recorded five cases of MERS in the past week, the official state-run Saudi press agency said Sunday, citing a weekly Ministry of Health statement.

According to the World Health Organization, the strain of coronavirus that causes MERS was first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.

In Seoul, Samsung Medical Center -- one of the city's hospitals that has counted many of the nation's MERS cases among its patients and visitors -- announced Sunday that it will suspend all surgical procedures except for emergency surgery \"to fully focus on responding to MERS.\"

More than 50 confirmed MERS cases have been traced back to the medical center, according to the center's website.

\"We sincerely apologize with our heads bent to the people for causing great concern as Samsung Medical Center became the center (of) the spread of MERS,\" hospital President Song Jae-hoon said.

Exactly a month ago, a South Korean man walked into a hospital complaining of a cough and fever.

The 68-year-old patient, who had just returned from four Middle Eastern countries, went from facility to facility before getting properly diagnosed. He would become \"patient zero\" of the country's outbreak.

The outbreak has sparked international concern, shuttered nearly 3,000 schools in South Korea and stalled the country's economy. So far, 2,854 people are under quarantine, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Many schools were expected to reopen Monday, but at least 440 were expected to remain closed.

South Korean health officials said last week that would be crucial in the battle to contain MERS, as many of those in quarantine were nearing the end of their mandatory isolation period.

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