Another person in the eastern town of Al-Ahsa died of coronavirus infection, bringing to seven the death toll in the past few days, the Ministry of Health said today.
While calling for increased vigilance, the MOH said in a statement that there is no cause for alarm as the spread of the new respiratory virus is considered "limited".
The total number of confirmed cases is 13, including the seven deaths. All the victims are Saudis and all were confined at one hospital in Al-Ahsa, said the statement.
Deputy Health Minister for Planning Mansour Al-Hawasi said at a news conference that the recent cases in the eastern region are under control.
Al-Hawasi said that three more people have contracted coronavirus bringing the total number of casualties to 13. All victims are from Al-Ahsa.
Al-Hawasi said that a special team of health officials is stationed in the region to determine the mode of transmission of the disease and also to keep the disease under control.
Ziad Al-Memish, undersecretary at the Ministry of Health for Public Health, said most of the victims were admitted to hospital in Al-Ahsa with complaints of pneumonia. Five families related to the patients are being examined as part of a medical investigation.
He said that the ministry has taken all preventive measures to keep the disease under control. “Our focus is to find out the modes of transmission of the disease and then it will be easier for us to embark on the preventive measures,” he said.
Dr. Jafar Al-Tawfiq, consultant for infectious diseases in adults from Saudi Aramco, said the victims recorded in Al-Ahsa have various health problems and chronic diseases.
Al-Ahsa's latest coronavirus death brings the global death toll to 17 out of 27 confirmed cases reported to the World Health Organization since September 2012.
Scientists say the new germ is from a family of viruses that cause the common cold, as well as SARS — the severe acute respiratory syndrome that killed some 800 people, mostly in Asia, in a 2003 epidemic.
Health experts still aren’t sure how humans are being infected. The new coronavirus, which can cause acute pneumonia and kidney failure, is most closely related to a bat virus and scientists are considering whether bats or other animals like goats or camels are a possible source of infection.
The new virus was first identified last year in the Middle East and several of the people infected had all traveled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Pakistan.
WHO says the virus is probably more widespread than just the Middle East and has advised countries to test any people with unexplained pneumonia. In Saudi Arabia last year, four members of the same family fell ill and two died.
The Saudi government is conducting an ongoing investigation into the outbreak.
The seven people who contracted the virus are not from the same family and there is no indication that any of them were in contact with animals or had traveled recently.
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