Coronavirus in Middle East: Symptoms & Death Toll, 4 More Die in Saudi Arabia

(Photo : REUTERS/Stringer) A man, wearing a surgical mask as a precautionary measure against the novel coronavirus, walks near a hospital in Khobar city in Dammam May 21, 2013. Saudi Arabia has reported another case of infection in a concentrated outbreak of a new strain of a virus that emerged in the Middle East last year and spread into Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on May 18, 2013. In a disease outbreak update issued from its Geneva headquarters, the WHO said the latest patient is an 81-year-old woman with multiple medical conditions. She became ill on April 28 and is in a critical but stable condition. Worldwide, there have now been 41 laboratory-confirmed infections, including 20 deaths, since the new coronavirus was identified by scientists in September 2012.

Four more people died and three have fallen ill in Saudi Arabia from the SARS-like coronavirus MERS-CoV, Reuters reports.

Saudi Arabia is the most affected country thus far, with 49 confirmed MERS cases, of whom 32 have died. The World Health Organization released the worldwide death toll on June 15th, marking 34 deceased from the respiratory-system virus. 

The recent Saudi Arabian deaths include a 2-year-old child who was stationed at the intensive care unit in Jeddah, Saudi. The child became infected three weeks after reports of a sick Saudi teenager emerged. 

Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, fever, and pneumonia. MERS-CoV is a distant relative of the virus that triggered the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed 775 people in 2003. 

On Monday, the World Health Organization urged health workers around the world to be on alert for symptoms of the deadly virus, stating that it had the potential to spread across the globe and cause a pandemic. 

"We are trying to find out as much as we can and we are concerned about these (three) viruses," said Andrew Harper, WHO special adviser for health security and environment, in a news briefing on its new scale for pandemic risk.

This coronavirus is still very much a mystery. Researchers remain unsure as to how the virus is contracted. It appears to spread between people only when there is close contact for a prolonged period of time.

So far, 75% of recorded Saudi victims have been men. Officials say that the virus might more easily inhabit bodies with one or more major chronic conditions. 

The virus has been reported in the Middle Eastern countries of Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia and the UAE. The virus is continuing to spread, with outbreaks recorded in France, the UK, and Germany.

So far, there have been no reports of anyone in the U.S. infected with MERS-CoV.

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