MERS SK
Workers in full protective gear disinfect the interior of a subway train at a Seoul Metro's railway vehicle base in Goyang, South KoreaReuters

An elderly cancer patient who contracted the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus while receiving treatment at Daejeon hospital became the 10th person to die of the disease in South Korea.

The 75-year-old man died at Konyang University Hospital, while the Ministry of Health and Welfare said 14 fresh cases were reported across the country.

The new patients, which reportedly included a pregnant woman, brought the total number of people infected by the deadly virus since the outbreak begun in May to 122.

The disease is causing growing anxiety across the country, despite officials saying its spreading has peaked and has been contained.

More than 2,600 schools remained closed today (June 11) out of fear of contagion, and up to 3,800 people were in isolation following contact with infected people.

South Korea's largest circulation daily, the Chosun Ilbo, published a story to debunk unfunded internet rumours that MERS was carried by cats and dogs, after panic spread among pet owners.

"Worried pet owners are visiting or calling vets, and some have capitalized on the confusion by selling disinfectant supposedly made exclusively for protection of pets against MERS," the newspaper wrote. There is no evidence that dogs and cats have ever contracted the virus.

A respiratory disease, MERS is believed to be transmitted through respiratory secretions, such as coughing, however the infection process is not yet perfectly understood.

It belongs to the same family as the common cold and SARS, which killed almost 800 people between 2002 and 2003 in a pandemic that started in Asia, and was first reported in South Korea on 20 May.

Considered to be deadlier but less transmissible than SARS, MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The first South Korean case was a 68-year-old man who had travelled to the Middle East.

The hospital he was treated at prior to be diagnosed with MERS, the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, has since become been a major source of infection, Yonhap news agency reported.

More than 50% of the new 14 cases are believed to have contracted the virus there. Typical symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).