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MERS toll fuels public fear Riyadh vows transparency

 JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, April 27, (AFP): The Saudi health ministry announced eight new deaths from the MERS virus on Sunday taking the kingdom’s death toll from the disease to 102. Afull 39 of the deaths have been this month, sparking growing public concern about the virus that first emerged in April 2012. Among the latest deaths was a ninemonth- old infant, the ministry said. A 63-year-old woman, who had also suffered chronic illness, died of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome on Saturday in the western city of Jeddah, and a 78-year-old man died of MERS in Riyadh, the health ministry said Sunday. It said the total number of cases diagnosed since the virus was first recorded in the kingdom has reached 323, representing the bulk of infections registered globally.

Experts are still struggling to understand MERS, for which there is no known vaccine. It is considered a deadlier but lesstransmissible cousin of the SARS virus which erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died. Riyadh dismissed the health minister earlier this month without saying why, and Labour Minister Adel Fakieh, appointed acting health minister, promised “transparency” over MERS. Panic over its spread among medical staff in the western city of Jeddah led to the temporary closure of a main hospital’s emergency room. At least four doctors at Jeddah’s King Fahd Hospital resigned last week after refusing to treat MERS patients for fear of infection.

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