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A new virus, MERS, a relative of SARS, is ravaging Saudi Arabia

So far, 22 of the 38 infected with the disease have died in Saudi Arabia and five more in other countries in the Persian Gulf

The MERS virus. Figure Credit: NIAID/RML
The MERS virus. Figure Credit: NIAID/RML

The World Health Organization said yesterday (Wednesday) that the number of deaths as a result of infection with a Sars-like virus has risen to 27. This after three people died in Saudi Arabia and another in France.

Last week the new virus was named Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus or MERS for short, a name that reflects the fact that most of the cases were in the region. So far, the World Health Organization has reported 38 cases of infection in Saudi Arabia, of which 22 patients have died.

Bahraini news website Gulf Daily News It is reported that the organization, which is affiliated to the United Nations, classified the cases of infection and death according to the country where the people apparently contracted the virus, with the Saudi data including one person who eventually died in Britain.

The Sars virus, nCoV-EMC, which came to the attention of public health professionals after it passed from animals to humans in 2003, and then caused an epidemic in which 800 people were killed.

Like SARS, the new virus appears to cause infections deep in the lungs, resulting in fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. However, unlike SARS, the MERS virus also causes kidney failure.

Senior health officials have expressed concern about the high death rate among the sick and warn that the disease could spread and become a global crisis if the virus acquires the ability to spread more easily.


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