13 new cases of MERS virus detected in Saudi Arabia

The deadly MERS virus has killed killing 76 people in Saudi Arabia, the Health Ministry says

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Saudi Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabia told reporters on Saturday that the kingdom has confirmed 13 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), pushing the total number of people infected with the deadly virus to 244.

Rabia said Saudi Arabia is doing its best to contain the virus, adding that no cases so far were registered in schools.

The minister said there was no scientific evidence yet to justify ordering additional preventative measures such as travel restrictions.

He said he did not know why there had been a surge of cases in Jeddah where seven of the new cases were registered there.

But he mulled the reason to be part of a seasonal pattern since there was also a big rise in infections last April and May.

Another cluster of cases has been detected in the United Arab Emirates and a Malaysian who was recently in the Gulf has been confirmed as infected, his country said.

MERS has no vaccine or anti-viral treatment, but international and Saudi health authorities say the disease, which originated in camels, does not transmit easily between people and may simply die out.

MERS, a SARS-like novel coronavirus emerged in Saudi Arabia two years ago, killing 76 people, the Health Ministry said on its website.

Health experts have warned, however, that MERS has the potential to mutate eventually.

The number of officially confirmed Saudi cases has jumped suddenly over the past two weeks.

Saudi authorities last week issued several statements aimed at reassuring the public that there was no immediate cause for concern at the latest outbreak and that it had not met international definitions of an epidemic.

(With AFP)

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