Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is 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. Health authorities in South Korea confirmed death of two people from MERS, the country's first fatalities from the virus. The health ministry also reported six new cases of the viral disease, bringing the total to 25 cases.
A 58-year-old woman, who had been treated as a suspected case of MERS, died on June 1, 2015, due of acute respiratory failure. Tests later came back positive for the virus. The second victim was a 71-year-old man who also tested positive several days ago. He died on June 2, 2015. The new MERS cases included the country's first tertiary infections as two people were found to have contracted the virus from a secondarily infected patient.
Over 20 countries have been affected by the MERS virus, which has no known cure or vaccine. Most of the cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia where it has killed more than 400 people since 2012.