Saudi Arabian Health Minister Abdullah Al Rabie says at least 15 people have died from a new deadly respiratory virus related to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome(SARS).
“The number of people who contracted the virus in the kingdom since August/September is 24, of whom 15 have died,” Al Rabie told a news conference in the capital Riyadh on Sunday. In addition, Al Rabie said three more people are suspected of having contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia. The novel coronavirus, also known as nCoV-EMC, is a cousin of SARS. The virus first emerged in the Middle East, and was discovered on September 2012 in a Qatari man who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said 11 people had died in Saudi Arabia from the virus since last year. Since September 2012, the World Health Organization has been informed of 30 confirmed cases of the virus, and 18 of the patients have died. Cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Qatar, Britain and Germany, and health officials have said the virus has likely already spread between people in some circumstances. Health authorities are trying to find out how humans are contracting and spreading the virus and what the best remedy to treat it is. According to the reports, most patients diagnosed with the virus are elderly men. It does not appear to be as contagious as SARS, which killed some 800 people in a 2003 epidemic. The novel coronavirus is most closely related to a bat virus. Scientists are considering whether bats or other animals like goats or camels are a possible source of infection. The WHO has advised countries to test any people with unexplained pneumonia.