DUBAI, United Arab
Emirates (AP) - Five more people have died in Saudi Arabia after contracting
an often fatal Middle East respiratory virus as the number of new infections
in the kingdom climbs higher, health officials confirmed Thursday.
The Saudi health
ministry said in a statement posted online that the dead included two men
previously confirmed to be suffering from the Middle East Respiratory
Syndrome in the Islamic holy city of Mecca and another two in the holy city
A 62-year-old woman
who suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma also died, in
Riyadh. She was one of 14 newly confirmed cases of the disease reported
Thursday in the Saudi capital, and in the cities of Jiddah, Taif and Medina.
Wednesday reported an additional 18 confirmed cases and four fatalities.
MERS belongs to a
family of viruses known as coronaviruses that include both the common cold
and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed some 800 people
in a global outbreak in 2003. MERS can cause symptoms including fever,
breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure.
Not everyone who
contracts the virus that causes MERS gets sick, while others show only mild
There is no cure or
The latest figures
bring to 463 the number of confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia, the site of most
MERS infections. A total of 126 people in the kingdom have died from the
virus since it was first identified in 2012.
The virus has since
spread to other parts of the world, including the United States, which
recently confirmed its first case in a health care worker returning from
camels may play a role in primary infections. The disease can then spread
between people, but typically only if they are in close contact with one
another. Many of those infected have been health-care workers.
Among those who
died this week after contracting the virus was a Filipino nurse working in
Riyadh, Carmelita Dimzon, head of the Philippines’ Overseas Workers Welfare
Administration, said Thursday.
In Lebanon, Health
Minister Wael Abu Faour ordered that thermal cameras be set up at Beirut’s
international airport to check arriving passengers for possible signs of
fever, indicating a possible MERS infection, the official National News
Agency reported. Lebanon has no recorded cases of the MERS virus so far.
A team of experts
from the World Health Organization has completed a five-day mission to Saud
Arabia to help health authorities there assess a recent rise in cases.
included meetings with health officials in the capital and visits to two
major hospitals in Jiddah, which has been the site of a number of recent
infections. The WHO noted that most human-to-human infections have occurred
in health-care facilities.
Evidence so far
suggests that a possible seasonal rise in incoming cases combined with
insufficient infection prevention and control measures could be to blame for
the rise in infections there, according to the WHO.
does not suggest that a recent increase in numbers reflects a significant
change in the transmissibility of the virus,” the WHO said Wednesday. “There
is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission in the community and
the transmission pattern overall remained unchanged.”
It added that there
is a “clear need” to improve medical workers’ knowledge and attitudes about