Saudi MERS death toll reaches 71

The Saudi Arabian Health Ministry has reported two more deaths related to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the country’s western region.

On Wednesday, Saudi authorities said the 52-year-old victim had died in the western city of Jeddah and that at least five others, including two medics, had been infected.

This comes a day after the Saudi health ministry reported the death of a 59-year-old in the same city. It also said four others had become infected.

Last week, an emergency room at a major hospital was temporarily closed over fears that the virus was spreading among medical staff.

Four doctors at Jeddah’s King Fahd Hospital also resigned this week after they refused to treat MERS patients.

The virus was initially started in Saudi Arabia’s eastern region. However, it has now reportedly spread across the country.

MERS was discovered in 2012 after a Qatari man who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia fell ill. Experts are still studying the disease, for which there is no known vaccine.

The latest reports bring the total number of MERS-related deaths to 71, with 205 people being infected in Saudi Arabia.

MERS-CoV is regarded a deadlier, but less transmissible cousin of the SARS virus which first broke out in Asia in 2003 and infected more than 8,000 people.

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 86 deaths had been reported, as well as 206 laboratory-confirmed cases of the MERS infection.

A recent report says the virus has been “extraordinarily common” in camels over the last two decades and may have been directly passed from animals to humans.


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