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Saudi Arabia says MERS coronavirus kills four more

Men wearing surgical masks as a precautionary measure against the novel coronavirus, speak at a hospital in Khobar city in Dammam May 23, 20
Men wearing surgical masks as a precautionary measure against the novel coronavirus, speak at a hospital in Khobar city in Dammam May 23, 20

DUBAI (Reuters) - Four more people have died and three more have fallen ill in Saudi Arabia from the new SARS-like coronavirus MERS-CoV, the Saudi Health Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry said the four deaths were among previously registered cases. The new infections were in Eastern Province, in the capital Riyadh and in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia has been the country most affected by the respiratory-system virus, with 49 confirmed cases, of whom 32 have died, according to data from the ministry.

In a statement confirming the four additional deaths and three additional cases in Saudi Arabia, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the worldwide toll now stood at 38 deaths from a total of 64 laboratory-confirmed cases.

The virus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, has spread from the Gulf to France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain. The WHO has called it the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

It is a relative of the virus that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China in 2002 and killed about a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

The origin of the MERS virus is still unclear. So far, it appears to spread between people only when there is close, prolonged contact.

The WHO is advising healthcare providers around the world to be vigilant, especially with recent travellers returning from the Middle East who develop respiratory infections.

(Reporting by Mahmoud Habboush and by Kate Kelland in London; Editing by Angus McDowall and Robin Pomeroy)

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