Nine more cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have been detected in South Korea, raising the total to 50, the health ministry said on Saturday. According to the ministry, all the nine new cases were exposed to the first patient who was tested positive on May 20, Xinhua news agency reported. On Friday, a chief master sergeant, 45, in the Osan Air Base has been infected, the first case of MERS contagion in the military.

Some 60 soldiers at the air base, where South Korean and US troops are stationed, have been isolated for possible contagion. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) data, about 1,600 people have been quarantined in South Korea, most at home but some in medical institutions.  The new cases bring the total globally to about 1,185, with at least 443 related deaths.

MERS is considered a deadly but less transmissible cousin of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, which erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected thousands of people. The WHO will send a team to South Korea next week to review and assess the situation.

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