MERS Virus Kills 70-Year-Old Foreigner in Saudi Arabia

Image: MERS Virus Kills 70-Year-Old Foreigner in Saudi Arabia A Muslim pilgrim wearing a mask due to fears of the deadly MERS virus, in Mina near of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Monday, 14 Apr 2014 04:37 PM

By Angela Deines

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The MERS virus, the mysterious disease believed to have originated in camels and passed on to humans, has reportedly claimed the life of a foreigner in Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia, there have been 194 reported cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, with 69 of the cases being fatalities. The MERS virus is believed to have started in the eastern portion of the Middle Eastern country and spread to other areas.

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The death of the foreigner reportedly happened in Jeddah in western Saudi Arabia, The Daily Star in Lebanon said.

According to the World Health Organization, the 70-year-old man died on April 5 after being hospitalized with the MERS virus on March 29. In addition, several health care workers from Jeddah have contracted the virus, confirmed by lab tests, and have been hospitalized but haven’t died.

Abdullah al-Rabiah, Saudi Arabia’s Health Minister, visited the affected Jeddah hospital last week as the public panicked about the spreading MERS virus. On Monday, al-Rabiah briefed the Saudi Council of ministers on the latest developments in the case.

"The situation concerning the coronavirus is reassuring," the council said after the briefing.

According to the World Health Organization, "Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 228 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 92 deaths."

The MERS virus begins with a fever and mild cough that eventually turns into pneumonia. However, because the symptoms of MERS aren’t always immediately apparent, the WHO has warned healthcare workers to take the same set of precautions with all patients they treat. In addition, the general public should also take precautions when coming in contact with animals.

“People at high risk of severe disease due to MERS-CoV should avoid close contact with animals when visiting farms or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating,” the WHO said. “For the general public, when visiting a farm or a barn, general hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals, and following food hygiene practices, should be adhered to.”

The MERS virus is believed to be a close cousin of the SARS virus that killed an estimated 8 percent of the more than 8,000 people infected in Asian countries in 2003.

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