South Korea says its deadly MERS outbreak may have peaked

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MERS Fears in South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea believes its MERS virus outbreak may have peaked, and experts say the next several days will be critical to determining whether the government's belated efforts have successfully stymied a disease that has killed seven people and infected nearly 100 in the country.

The biggest outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outside the region where it was first seen in 2012 was introduced to South Korea last month by a 68-year-old man who had traveled to Saudi Arabia and other nearby countries.

When he got sick after his return to South Korea, he visited several hospitals and clinics, where dozens of other patients and hospital workers were infected before officials found he had MERS. Gradually, the government began isolating victims and quarantining those who'd had contact with them.

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MERS South Korea (last updated on 6/17/2015)
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South Korea says its deadly MERS outbreak may have peaked
A woman wearing a face mask walks past an electronic board at an arrival gate of Gimpo international airport in Seoul on June 17, 2015. South Korea on June 17 announced its 20th death from the MERS virus as criticism grew of efforts to contain the outbreak, with alarming reports of new cases slipping through a quarantine that already affects thousands. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, second right in front, checks a student's temperature as a precaution against MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) at Gwanghui Elementary School in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, June 17, 2015. The death toll in South Korea's MERS outbreak increased Tuesday even as schools reopened and people recovered from the virus. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean workers spray antiseptic solution at the customs, immigration and quarantine office (CIQ) of Gimpo international airport in Seoul on June 17, 2015. South Korea on June 17 announced its 20th death from the MERS virus as criticism grew of efforts to contain the outbreak, with alarming reports of new cases slipping through a quarantine that already affects thousands. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
Women wear masks as a precaution against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus as they walk on the Myeongdong, one of the main shopping districts in Seoul, South Korea Wednesday, June 17, 2015. The death toll continued to mount in South Korea's MERS outbreak on Tuesday even as schools reopen and people recover from the virus. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 16: Disinfection workers wearing protective clothing spray anti-septic solution in an karaoke amid rising public concerns over the spread of MERS virus on June 16, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea has reported 19 deaths from Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and the total number of people diagnosed with the disease is 154 as of June 16, 2015. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Au unidentified student is checked her temperature as a precaution against MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) at Gwanghui Elementary School in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, June 17, 2015. The death toll in South Korea's MERS outbreak increased Tuesday even as schools reopened and people recovered from the virus. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 16: Disinfection workers wearing protective clothing spray anti-septic solution in an karaoke amid rising public concerns over the spread of MERS virus on June 16, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea has reported 19 deaths from Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and the total number of people diagnosed with the disease is 154 as of June 16, 2015. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean workers wearing protective gear fumigate a theater at the Sejong Culture Center in Seoul on June 16, 2015. South Korea on June 16 reported three more fatalities from MERS, taking the country's death toll from the outbreak to 19 as four new cases were confirmed, the health ministry said. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
Two women wearing face masks look at a map as they stand on a street in the popular Myeongdong shopping district in Seoul on June 15, 2015. South Korea reported on June 15, two more deaths and five new cases in the growing outbreak of MERS which has placed more than 5,200 people under quarantine and sparked widespread alarm. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean elementary school students wearing masks as a precaution against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus go to school as their school reopened after it was temporarily closed in Seoul, South Korea Monday, June 15, 2015. The outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome has caused panic in South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean elementary school students wear masks as a precaution against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus as they go to school which was temporarily closed in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 15, 2015. The outbreak of MERS has caused panic in South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean police officers wearing mask as a precaution against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, stand guard during a rally in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, June 14, 2015. The MERS virus in South Korea, the largest outbreak outside the Middle East, hasn't spread outside hospitals among the wider community or become easier to transmit between humans, the World Health Organization said.(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A South Korean security person wears a mask as a precaution against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus at the customs, immigration and quarantine gate in Paju, South Korea, near the border village of Panmunjom, South Korea, Saturday, June 13, 2015. Experts from the World Health Organization and South Korea on Saturday downplayed concerns about the MERS virus spreading further within the country, but said that it was premature to declare the outbreak over. The signboard at right reads "Return". (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean police officers wearing mask as a precaution against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, stand guard during a rally in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, June 14, 2015. The MERS virus in South Korea, the largest outbreak outside the Middle East, hasn't spread outside hospitals among the wider community or become easier to transmit between humans, the World Health Organization said. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A South Korean health worker from a community health center wearing mask as a precaution against MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, virus, takes an examinee' temperature at a test site for the civil service examination in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, June 13, 2015. Experts from the World Health Organization and South Korea have downplayed concerns about the MERS virus spreading further within the country, but they say it's premature to declare the outbreak over. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Workers wearing protective gears spray antiseptic solution as a precaution against the spread of MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, virus at an art hall in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, June 12, 2015. The outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome has caused panic in South Korea. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A worker wearing protective gears sprays antiseptic solution as a precaution against the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at a classroom of Midong Elementary school in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, June 12, 2015. Authorities in South Korea temporarily closed two hospitals amid persistent fears over the MERS virus outbreak, which killed an 11th person Friday, though health officials said they are seeing fewer new infections. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A worker wearing protective gears sitting on a truck sprays antiseptic solution as a precaution against the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at a local market in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, June 12, 2015. South Korea’s economy is feeling the heat as the MERS outbreak slashed inflow of visitors and consumption. For a South Korean tour agency, the outbreak of a contagious disease turned out to be a bigger threat to the business than North Korean attack or nuclear fuel meltdowns. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Workers wearing protective gears spray antiseptic solution as a precaution against the spread of MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, virus outside Wangsimni Subway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, June 11, 2015. Experts from the World Health Organization and South Korea on Wednesday urged the reopening of more than 2,700 schools closed over fears of the deadly MERS virus.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean health officials fumigate a theater while wearing protective gear in Seoul on June 12, 2015. South Korea on June 12, reported four more cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), bringing to 126 the total number of people diagnosed with the potentially deadly virus. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
GOYANG, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 09: A disinfection worker wearing protective gear spray anti-septic solution in an subway amid rising public concerns over the spread of MERS virus at Seoul metro railway base on June 9, 2015 in Goyang, South Korea. South Korea has reported eighth death, 2,892 quarantined, and 1800 schools closed as of June 9, 2015. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
GOYANG, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 09: Disinfection workers wearing protective gears spray anti-septic solution in an subway amid rising public concerns over the spread of MERS virus at Seoul metro railway base on June 9, 2015 in Goyang, South Korea. South Korea has reported eighth death, 2,892 quarantined, and 1800 schools closed as of June 9, 2015. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean medical workers in full protective gear walk past in front of the emergency section at the Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul on June 11, 2015. South Korea's outbreak of the potentially deadly MERS virus on June 11 forced the central bank to cut its key interest rate to ward off greater economic damage, as retailers report a slump in business. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows the Seoul city skyline facing South East towards the Han river (C) on June 11, 2015. South Korea's outbreak of the potentially deadly MERS virus on June 11 forced the central bank to cut its key interest rate to ward off greater economic damage, as retailers report a slump in business. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A man wearing a face mask checks his reflection on a building in an alleyway in Seoul on June 9, 2015. South Korea on June 9 reported its seventh death from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) as the government -- concerned about the economic impact -- said it hoped to end the crisis this week. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 09: Elementary school students wear masks as a precaution against the MERS virus as they wait for a lesson to start at Midong Elementary School on June 9, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea has reported eight deaths related to the virus with 2,500 people quarantined and 1,800 schools closed as of June 9, 2015. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
A couple wearing face masks walk on a street in the popular student area of Hongdae in Seoul on June 7, 2015. South Korea reported its fifth death from MERS as the government on June 7 vowed 'all-out' measures to curb the outbreak that was threatening to spread nationwide, including tracking mobile phones of those in quarantine. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A student has her temperature taken by a teacher outside the Sungshin elementary school in Seoul on June 8, 2015. South Korea recorded its sixth death and biggest single day jump in Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) infections, with 23 new cases in the largest outbreak of the potentially deadly virus outside Saudi Arabia. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Airport staff members prepare to check the temperatures of passengers at the Hong Kong Airport, Friday, June 5, 2015. Sales of surgical masks soared amid fears of MERS, a deadly, poorly understood virus, on Friday. Airlines announced "intensified sanitizing operations," more than 1,100 schools were closed, and 1,600 people — and 17 camels in zoos — were quarantined. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
FILE - In this Saturday, June 6, 2015, file photo, South Korean soldiers wear masks as a precaution against MERS virus during a ceremony to mark South Korea's 60th Memorial Day at the National Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea. Sales of surgical masks surged amid fears of the deadly, poorly understood virus this week. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)
Teacher Han Tae-hyun, left, checks temperature of student Kim Hun-jin as they wear masks as a precaution against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at Midlong Elementary School in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 8, 2015. South Korea on Monday reported its sixth death from MERS as authorities were bolstering measures to stem the spread of the virus that has left dozens of people infected. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A foreign tourist, center, wears a mask as a precaution against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) as she takes pictures with her smartphone at the Myeongdong, one of the main shopping districts, in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 8, 2015. South Korea on Monday reported its sixth death from MERS as authorities were bolstering measures to stem the spread of the virus that has left dozens of people infected. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Airport personnel wait for passengers to check their temperature as part of preventive measures against the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at the Hong Kong international airport on June 5, 2015. Meanwhile, South Korea reported a fourth MERS case, as an infected doctor fuelled fears of a fresh surge in cases and prompted Seoul's mayor to declare 'war' on the virus. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers get their temperature checked as part of preventive measures against the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at the Hong Kong international airport on June 5, 2015. Meanwhile, South Korea reported a fourth MERS case, as an infected doctor fuelled fears of a fresh surge in cases and prompted Seoul's mayor to declare 'war' on the virus. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers wear masks as a precaution against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) as they use their smartphones on a subway train in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 8, 2015. South Korea on Monday reported its sixth death from MERS as authorities were bolstering measures to stem the spread of the virus that has left dozens of people infected. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Elementary school students wear masks as a precaution against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus as they salute the national flag at Midong Elementary School in Seoul, South Korea Monday, June 8, 2015. South Korea on Monday reported its sixth death from MERS as authorities were bolstering measures to stem the spread of the virus that has left dozens of people infected. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Hospital workers, right, wear masks as a precaution against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus as they talk with visitors at Chonnam University Hospital in Gwangju, South Korea, Monday, June 8, 2015. South Korea on Monday reported its sixth death from MERS as authorities were bolstering measures to stem the spread of the virus that has left dozens of people infected. (Yun Hyung-geun/Newsis via AP) KOREA OUT
Tourists wearing face masks look at a map as they stand in the popular Myeongdong shopping area in Seoul on June 4, 2015. The Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) reported that around 7,000 tourists -- mostly from China and Taiwan -- had cancelled planned group trips to South Korea, citing the MERS outbreak as the main reason, a KTO spokesman said. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer tourist assistants wearing face masks gather in the popular Myeongdong shopping area in Seoul on June 4, 2015. The Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) reported that around 7,000 tourists -- mostly from China and Taiwan -- had cancelled planned group trips to South Korea, citing the MERS outbreak as the main reason, a KTO spokesman said. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo taken on June 3, 2015 a woman wearing a face mask walks past Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul. Hundreds more schools closed in South Korea as officials struggled to ease growing panic over an outbreak of the MERS virus that has infected 35 people, killed two and caused thousands to cancel travel plans. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 04: Tourists wear masks as a precaution against the MERS virus at the Gyeongbok palace on June 4, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. Two deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have been confirmed on June 2, 2015, and the number of confirmed local patients have risen to 35 as of June 4, 2015. More than 700 schools from kindergartens to colleges have been closed. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean school students wear face masks during a special class on MERS virus at an elementary school in Seoul on June 3, 2015. South Korea on June 2 reported its first deaths from an outbreak of the MERS virus that has infected 25 people, caused widespread alarm and triggered a closer watch by Asian neighbours on Korean arrivals. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman wearing a face mask crosses a street in Seoul on June 3, 2015. More than 200 primary schools shut down as South Korea struggled to contain an outbreak of the MERS virus that has infected 30, killed two and triggered widespread fear. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean school workers spray sanitizer on hands of students to protect against possible MERS virus at an elementary school in Seoul on June 3, 2015. South Korea on June 2 reported its first deaths from an outbreak of the MERS virus that has infected 25 people, caused widespread alarm and triggered a closer watch by Asian neighbours on Korean arrivals. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean hospital workers set a separated emergency center for MERS cases at the National Medical Center in Seoul on June 1, 2015. South Korean President Park Geun-Hye scolded health officials on June 1, over their response to an outbreak of the MERS virus, as the number of infections climbed to 18, with nearly 700 under observation. Major South Korean hospitals are setting up special MERS clinic rooms to fight the disease. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean hospital workers carry transport a man in front of a quarantine tent for suspected MERS cases at the Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul on June 2, 2015. South Korea's health ministry confirmed that two people have died from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the country's first fatalities from the virus.AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 02: A woman and her young baby wear masks as a precaution against the MERS virus on June 2, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. The Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea confirmed two deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on June 2, 2015. It reported six new cases of MERS, raising the number of confirmed local patients to 25. The first case was confirmed on May 20. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean middle school students wear masks as a precaution against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus as they visit Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, June 3, 2015. South Korea on Tuesday confirmed the country's first two deaths from MERS as it fights to contain the spread of a virus that has killed hundreds of people in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Hospital workers and visitors wearing masks pass by a precaution against the MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, virus at a quarantine tent for people who could be infected with the MERS virus at Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, June 3, 2015. South Korea on Tuesday confirmed the country's first two deaths from MERS as it fights to contain the spread of a virus that has killed hundreds of people in the Middle East.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 02: People wear masks as a precaution against the MERS virus on June 2, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. The Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea confirmed two deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on June 2, 2015. It reported six new cases of MERS, raising the number of confirmed local patients to 25. The first case was confirmed on May 20. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
A man wearing a face mask walks through a market in Seoul on June 1, 2015. South Korean President Park Geun-Hye scolded health officials over their 'insufficient' response to an outbreak of the MERS virus, as the number of infections climbed to 18, with nearly 700 under observation. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A mother and her daughter wearing masks walk near a precaution against the MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, virus at a quarantine tent for people who could be infected with the MERS virus at Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, June 3, 2015. South Korea on Tuesday confirmed the country's first two deaths from MERS as it fights to contain the spread of a virus that has killed hundreds of people in the Middle East.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean school workers spray sanitizer on hands of students to protect against possible MERS virus at an elementary school in Seoul on June 3, 2015. South Korea on June 2 reported its first deaths from an outbreak of the MERS virus that has infected 25 people, caused widespread alarm and triggered a closer watch by Asian neighbours on Korean arrivals. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean school students wear face masks to protect against possible MERS virus at an elementary school in Seoul on June 3, 2015. South Korea on June 2 reported its first deaths from an outbreak of the MERS virus that has infected 25 people, caused widespread alarm and triggered a closer watch by Asian neighbours on Korean arrivals. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A South Korean school worker sprays sanitizer on hands of students to protect against possible MERS virus at an elementary school in Seoul on June 3, 2015. South Korea on June 2 reported its first deaths from an outbreak of the MERS virus that has infected 25 people, caused widespread alarm and triggered a closer watch by Asian neighbours on Korean arrivals. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 02: A hospital worker wearing mask near a quarantine tent for people who could be infected with the MERS virus at Seoul National University Hospital on June 2, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. The Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea confirmed two deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on June 2, 2015. It reported six new cases of MERS, raising the number of confirmed local patients to 25. The first case was confirmed on May 20. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean school students put on face masks during a special class on MERS virus at an elementary school in Seoul on June 3, 2015. South Korea on June 2 reported its first deaths from an outbreak of the MERS virus that has infected 25 people, caused widespread alarm and triggered a closer watch by Asian neighbours on Korean arrivals. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 02: A hospital worker wearing mask near a quarantine tent for people who could be infected with the MERS virus at Seoul National University Hospital on June 2, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. The Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea confirmed two deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on June 2, 2015. It reported six new cases of MERS, raising the number of confirmed local patients to 25. The first case was confirmed on May 20. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 02: People wear masks as a precaution against the MERS virus on June 2, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. The Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea confirmed two deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on June 2, 2015. It reported six new cases of MERS, raising the number of confirmed local patients to 25. The first case was confirmed on May 20. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 02: Hospital workers wearing masks to protect them from the MERS virus near a quarantine tent for people who could be infected with the MERS virus at Seoul National University Hospital on June 2, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. The Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea confirmed two deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on June 2, 2015. It reported six new cases of MERS, raising the number of confirmed local patients to 25. The first case was confirmed on May 20. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
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There has been widespread fear here of the poorly understood disease, which has no vaccine and as much as a 40 percent mortality rate. There also had been growing criticism over failures by health workers and the government to initially recognize and quickly contain the disease.

Nearly 3,000 people have been placed in isolation and 2,200 schools closed in South Korea. Although MERS spreads through close contact with sick people, not through the air, many people here have avoided going to crowded places like baseball parks and movie theaters. Travel agencies report a sharp increase in the number of foreigners canceling plans to visit South Korea.

The outbreak, however, has so far been contained in hospitals and there's no evidence, the U.N. health agency says, of "sustained transmission in the community."

Authorities say the first MERS patient didn't reveal his Saudi Arabia trip to doctors until he arrived at the Seoul-based Samsung Medical Center after being treated at three other hospitals, including St. Mary's Hospital in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul. Samsung and St. Mary's have seen most of the country's infections.

The initial patient's wife, who was the country's second MERS case and is now out of the hospital, recently told a local TV station that her husband didn't intend to hide information about his travels, but simply had trouble talking to doctors because of his high fever.

Because the virus' incubation period is estimated at five to six days on average, extending up to about two weeks, experts believe there won't be any more cases directly infected by the first patient. The Health Ministry said that no more MERS cases have originated from St. Mary's Hospital.

There are still concerns about Samsung Medical Center, where at least 37 people have been infected, although fewer cases have been reported there in recent days.

The initial patient was eventually isolated on May 20 after doctors at Samsung, where the man ended up, suspected he had MERS and alerted the government, which moved him to a government-run facility. But a week later, another so-called "super-spreader" — a man who'd been infected by the initial patient at St. Mary's Hospital — checked into an overcrowded Samsung Medical Center, where he was forced to stay for several days in the emergency room. He spread the disease among doctors, visitors and other patients there, according to health officials.

The maximum incubation period for those infected by the second "super-spreader" ends around this Friday, experts said, which raises hopes that the outbreak could weaken soon.

"I cautiously predict (MERS) will peak today" and be stabilized in the next few days, Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo told lawmakers Monday.

The prospects for the virus weakening this week depend on whether there are many people who have evaded government quarantine measures and infected other people in various places, said Jacob Lee, an infectious disease expert at Kangnam Sacred Heart Hospital in Seoul.

World Health Organization experts arrived in South Korea on Monday to investigate the outbreak.

There are concerns that South Korea's economy could suffer as tourism and business travel drop because of MERS fears.

Hong Kong has issued a red travel warning for South Korea, the second highest of three levels, and advised residents against unnecessary travel there. Hong Kong has been hypersensitive to infectious diseases since the outbreak of SARS in 2003, which killed hundreds of people.

MERS has mostly been centered 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.

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Associated Press writer Kelvin K. Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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