SEOUL, South Korea -- Sales of surgical masks surge amid fears of a deadly, poorly understood virus. Airlines announce "intensified sanitizing operations." More than 900 schools close and 1,600 people -- and 17 camels in zoos -- are quarantined.

The current frenzy in South Korea over MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, brings to mind the other menacing diseases to hit Asia over the last decade -- SARS, which killed hundreds, and bird flu.

Then, as now, confusion ruled as the media harped on the growing public panic, and health care workers and government officials struggled to understand and contain the diseases, sometimes downplaying the danger, sometimes inadvertently hyping it.

While it's still early and MERS is a scary disease with no vaccine and a high death rate, there are so far more reasons for calm caution than for panic.

Here's a look at what's happening in South Korea. (AP)