RIYADH: Five Saudis have died of a new SARS-like virus during the past few days and two more are being treated in an intensive care unit, the health ministry said.
In a statement cited by the Saudi press agency late on Wednesday, the ministry said that all the deaths as well as the infections occurred in the Ahsaa province in the oil-rich eastern region of the kingdom.
Known as novel coronavirus or hCoV-EMC, the virus was first detected in mid-2012 and is a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which triggered a scare 10 years ago when it erupted in east Asia, leaping to humans from animal hosts.
hCoV-EMC stands for human coronavirus-Erasmus Medical Center, after the Dutch health institution that identified it.
The health ministry said it is taking “all precautionary measures for persons who have been in contact with the infected people . . . and has taken samples from them to examine if they are infected.”
However, the ministry gave no figures for how many people have been examined to see if they have the lethal disease.
Sixteen people have now died from 23 cases detected in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany and Britain.
Riyadh has accounted for most of the deaths, with 11 people including the five new fatalities.