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Mysterious respiratory virus claims another life in Middle East

Published time: November 23, 2012 22:20
Edited time: November 24, 2012 07:13
World Health Organisation's logo (AFP Photo / Fabrice Coffrini)

World Health Organisation's logo (AFP Photo / Fabrice Coffrini)

Another person has died and at least three more cases of a mysterious respiratory virus have been discovered in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The WHO confirms that that the new strain is part of the coronavirus family, which also includes the deadly SARS.

­So far the World Health Organization has confirmed six cases of infection, with four in Saudi Arabia and two in Qatar.

The WHO earlier said that the virus does not appear to be very contagious, but on Friday it announced that the two latest cases discovered in a Saudi family were epidemiologically linked. Moreover, two members of the same family – one of which also died – were showing similar symptoms, but their cases have not been confirmed.

­“Preliminary investigations indicate that these two cases presented with similar symptoms of illness. One died and the other recovered,” the organization said in a statement.

The organization is now investigating the close contacts of the recently confirmed cases.

The WHO pointed out that many cases might be going undetected, as not every case is reported to the Geneva-based UN agency, and called on countries to “continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections."

­In the new Qatari case, the patient had been sent to Germany for a special treatment at a lung hospital, and recovered.

The new strain was first detected earlier this year after a Saudi man died from the coronavirus in June while a Qatari man was hospitalized in London with the virus after a trip to Saudi Arabia.

“Until more information is available, it is prudent to consider that the virus is likely more widely distributed than just the two countries which have identified cases,” the WHO warned.

The new coronavirus shares some of the symptoms of the infamous SARS virus, and also causes rapid kidney failure, according to the WHO. A decade ago an outbreak of SARS originating in Hong Kong nearly became a pandemic, infecting 8,422 people worldwide and causing 916 deaths over the course of eight months.