Coronavirus victim dies in Tunisia as Saudi death toll rises

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A man travelling from Saudi Arabia who was infected with the SARS-like coronavirus has died in Tunisia, the health authorities said on Tuesday.

"It is the first case in Tunisia, and he died on May 10," Noureddine Achour, director of the National Observatory for New and Emerging Diseases, told AFP.

"Two members of his family also contracted the virus but they are doing well after receiving treatment," he added.

A man died on Monday of the SARS-like coronavirus in Saudi Arabia, bringing the death toll for the respiratory infection in the kingdom to 16, the health ministry said.

“One of the patients who had contracted the virus has died,” in the Eastern Region of Saudi Arabia where most of the kingdom’s cases have been registered, the ministry said.

The victim was not identified, but the ministry said he was a diabetic who also had heart and kidney problems.

The ministry also said that the health of a nurse who had been infected by patients in the Eastern Region was now improving.

Saudi Arabia now wants the coronavirus to be discussed in an upcoming World Health Organization session, according to the Saudi Gazette on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Geneva-based WHO reported that two Saudi health workers have contracted the deadly coronavirus from patients -- the first evidence of transmission in a hospital setting.

“This is the first time health care workers have been diagnosed with nCoV (novel coronavirus) infection after exposure to patients,” the WHO said in a statement, according to AFP news agency.

On Saturday, the health ministry said a new case had been detected, bringing to 31 the number of officially recorded cases in the country.

Since last September, the WHO says it has been informed of a global total of 40 laboratory confirmed cases of the virus, including 20 deaths.

Several countries in the Middle East have been affected. Cases have also been reported by three countries in Europe: France, Germany and Britain. All of the European cases have had a direct or indirect connection to the Middle East, the WHO said. The virus has been the deadliest, however, in Saudi Arabia.

Human coronavirus was first discovered in 2012 in a man in Saudi Arabia, and almost all of the cases reported to the WHO originated in the Arabian Peninsula.

The virus is a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which triggered a scare 10 years ago when it erupted in east Asia, leaping to humans from animal hosts and eventually killing some 800 people.

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