Two Saudi women die from MERS coronavirus

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Two Saudi women have died from the MERS coronavirus and two more have contracted the disease in Saudi Arabia, the health ministry said on Saturday, raising to44 the number of people in the kingdom who have died from the SARS-like virus.

The World Health Organization said last month the number of confirmed infections worldwide in the past year was 102, of whom almost half have died.

The Saudi Health Ministry said in a statement one 41-year-old woman working in the health sector died in the capital Riyadh and a 79-year-old woman who had been suffering from other diseases died in Hafr al-Baten, a town in northeastern Saudi Arabia.

The ministry also reported two men aged 30 and 47 were under intensive care in Riyadh and Hafr al-Baten.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV),which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, emerged in Saudi Arabia last year and has been reported in people in the Gulf, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain.

In a study into what kind of animal "reservoir" may be fuelling the outbreak in humans, scientists said this month they had found strong evidence it is widespread among dromedary camels in the Middle East.

The WHO, a U.N. agency, has not recommended any travel restrictions but has urged health authorities worldwide to maintain vigilance. Recent travellers returning from the Middle East who develop severe respiratory infections should be tested for MERS-CoV, it said.

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