Last Updated: Mon Sep 24, 2012 20:53 pm (KSA) 17:53 pm (GMT)

WHO on alert as new Mideast coronavirus kills two Saudis

In 2003, the SARS outbreak claimed more than 800 lives and infected 8,000 others all over the world. (Reuters)
In 2003, the SARS outbreak claimed more than 800 lives and infected 8,000 others all over the world. (Reuters)

An outbreak of a virus as fatal to humans as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is being observed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as two Saudis have already died of infection.

“As with any new virus, this is of concern to us and we’re watching it very closely,” WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl was quoted by the Canadian press as saying.

Saudi Arabia’s Undersecretary of Health for Public Health Ziad al-Memish said the first case was a Saudi patient diagnosed in one of the hospitals in Jeddah; the second was also a Saudi patient and the third, a 49-year-old patient from Qatar. Two were diagnosed with the illness in London. Two patients died and the third is under treatment.

“The Health Protection Agency of the UK (HPA) conducted laboratory testing and has confirmed the presence of a novel coronavirus,” WHO said referring to the third victim, as seen on their website.

Prior to being ill, the Qatari patient has travelled to Saudi Arabia before being confined at the intensive care unit (ICU) in Doha, Qatar, on Sept. 7 then was transferred to UK on Sept. 11.

WHO stated that there is no need for travel restrictions as tests are still being conducted to know to what extent the virus may be transferred among people.

However, Memish asked people to take necessary preventive measures against the said virus.

“There is no cause for alarm about the coronavirus. However, people should be aware of its presence and they should take preventive measures to keep the disease away from them,” Memish told the Saudi-based Arab News on Sunday.

Memish said the symptoms of the virus include having runny nose, general feelings of illness, mild sore throat, cough, headache, low fever and chills. It can also cause respiratory, intestinal and neurological illness.

He strongly advised patients to see the doctor as soon as similar symptoms appear.

An effort to add precautionary measures in the country, especially with the Hajj season (Muslim pilgrimage) nearing, are now being prioritized by the government.

Human coronaviruses cause about 33% of cases of the “common cold”, Arab News reported.

In 2003, the SARS outbreak claimed more than 800 lives and infected 8,000 others all over the world.

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