Nurses at a hospital in China have been reportedly drawing lots to determine who should treat a patient with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers). The hospital, in the southern city of Huizhou, said the ballot was arranged because there were too many volunteers to treat the South Korean man. But posts on social media suggest many were reluctant to take on the task. The virus has a death rate of 27%, according to the World Health Organization.

The sick man was named as China’s first Mers case last week, after travelling to the country from South Korea, via Hong Kong. Doctors had advised him to cancel the trip because his father had already contracted the virus. Eighteen people who sat near him during the journey have also been quarantined, but are not showing any symptoms.

South Korea has reported 17 cases of Mers since last month. More than 680 people, who may have come into contact with the infected patients, have been placed in isolation. The outbreak has been traced to a South Korean who visited the Middle East. Health ministry official, Kwon Jun-wook, told reporters on Monday that those in quarantine were being held at their homes or in state-run facilities in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

The first fatality from Mers was recorded in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It belongs to the family of coronaviruses that includes the common cold and Sars, and can cause fever, breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure. Experts believe the virus is not very contagious.

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