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South Korea Reports Seven New Cases of MERS, Brings Total to 145

SEOUL —South Korea's Health Ministry reported on Sunday seven new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, bringing the total to 145 in an outbreak that the World Health Organization called "large and complex."

All of the cases are believed to be linked to hospital settings and traced to a businessman who had returned from a trip to the Middle East. There have been 14 deaths, all elderly patients or people who had been suffering serious ailments.

Related: CDC Reminds U.S. Doctors to Watch Out for MERS

The outbreak is the largest outside Saudi Arabia, where the disease was first identified in humans in 2012, and has stirred fears in Asia of a repeat of a 2002-2003 scare when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) killed about 800 people worldwide.

"Because the outbreak has been large and is complex, more cases should be anticipated," WHO's assistant director general, Keiji Fukuda, told a news conference at the Health Ministry in Sejong, south of the capital, Seoul.

The businessman who brought MERS back to South Korea visited several health centers for a cough and fever before he was diagnosed, leaving a trail of infection in his wake.

MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that caused SARS. It is more deadly than SARS but does not spread as easily, at least for now. There is no cure or vaccine.