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A Saudi man talks in his phone wears a mask outside King Fahd hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Kuwait’s MoH takes precautions against virus 13 more MERS deaths in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, May 10, (Agencies): Saudi Arabia has announced 13 more deaths from the MERS coronavirus, as the World Health Organisation prepared for an emergency meeting over worries about the spread of the disease.

The Middle East Respiratory System coronavirus has now killed 139 people and infected 480 in the kingdom since it first appeared in 2012, accounting for the bulk of cases registered across the globe. In its most recent tally, issued at midday on Saturday, the Saudi health ministry said six people had died from the disease over the past 24 hours.

They were three women aged 22, 26 and 35 who died in Riyadh, a 68-year-old woman and a 78- year-old man in the western city of Medina, and a man in his 70s in the commercial capital Jeddah. On Friday the ministry said three men aged 94, 51 and 42 had died from MERS in the Jeddah region. It added that a 74-year-old man had died in the city of Taef, while a woman, 71, and two men aged 81 and 25 respectively, had died in the capital Riyadh. MERS is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that broke out in Asia in 2003, infecting 8,273 people and killing nearly 800. Like SARS, it appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering coughing, breathing difficulties and a temperature, but MERS differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure.

Experts are struggling to understand the disease for which there are currently no vaccines or antiviral treatments. The announcement of the latest fatalities in Saudi Arabia came the day after the WHO said it would hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the spread of the virus. The UN health agency’s emergency committee has already met four times to discuss the mysterious coronavirus since it surfaced in 2012.

Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Ministry of Health is taking all precautions necessary to ward off the onset of coronavirus in the country by, among other measures, forming a highlyspecialized panel of health experts to prepare wellresearched guidelines that can help the ministry in its plan to fight this disease if it ever appears in Kuwait.

The ministry has also put together a team of experts whose task is to respond instantly with diagnostic and treatment advice to any clinic, hospital, whether in the public or private sectors that might face potential cases of this disease. Only three cases have really been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Kuwait and have been promptly dealt with.

Pervasiveness
The WHO, in its statistics about the pervasiveness of this disease worldwide, published last April, noted that there have been 254 documented cases of the disease, 93 of them ended in the death of the patients. The statistics also indicated that the country with the most cases is Saudi Arabia. Elsewhere, the first American diagnosed with a mysterious virus from the Middle East has been released from an Indiana hospital and is consider fully recovered, the hospital said Friday. Community Hospital chief medical information officer Dr. Alan Kumar said the patient now tests negative for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, and “poses no threat to the community.” The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the patient is an American man. He flew from Saudi Arabia to Chicago on April 24 and took a bus to Indiana. He sought treatment last Monday and was diagnosed with MERS. MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that also includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. It appears to be unusually lethal — by some estimates, it has killed nearly a third of the people it sickened.

That’s a far higher percentage than seasonal flu or other routine infections. But it is not as contagious as flu, measles or other diseases. There is no vaccine or cure. Friday’s statement said no additional cases of MERS have been identified. While the virus is not highly contagious, the hospital has isolated at home 50 employees identified as having come in contact with the man before he was diagnosed.

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