RODOLFO C. ESTIMO JR. | Arab News Staff
Published — Friday 24 May 2013
Last update 24 May 2013 7:39 am
RIYADH: An expatriate residing in the central province of Qassim has died of the novel coronavirus infection, the Ministry of Health has announced.
The latest fatality brings to 17 the total number of laboratory-confirmed coronavirus deaths in the kingdom. This was the first coronavirus case of a non-Saudi patient in the kingdom, the MOH said.
In its latest update posted on its website late on Wednesday, the MOH said the patient was admitted at a hospital a few days ago due to severe acute respiratory syndrome and passed away on Tuesday.
No other details were provided, but a statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) quoted a report it received from the Saudi MOH saying "the patient was a 63-year-old man with an underlying medical condition who was admitted to a hospital with acute respiratory distress on 15 May 2013 and died on 20 May 2013."
A source at the Ministry of Health told Arab News that the latest victim was a male Syrian and that the MOH hospital where he was admitted was in the city of Buraidah.
The WHO statement, quoting the MOH report, said the fatal case in Qassim is not related to the cluster of cases reported from Al-Ahsa in the eastern part of the country.
Investigation into contacts of the case is ongoing, it said.
"The Saudi authorities are also continuing the investigation into the outbreak that began in a health care facility since the beginning of April 2013 in Al-Ahsa. To date, a total of 22 patients including 10 deaths have been reported from the outbreak," said the WHO statement.
Saudi Arabia remains the center for the new respiratory virus as investigators from the WHO seek more clues about its origins and how it is spread.
Known as novel coronavirus, or nCoV, the new virus is from the same family as those that cause common colds and the one that caused the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that emerged in Asia in 2003. The WHO uses the term MERS-CoV to refer to the virus.
WHO said it has received reports of a total of 44 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 22 deaths, since the virus was discovered by scientists in September 2012.
Apart from Saudi Arabia, nCov or MERS-CoV cases were also found in France, Germany, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Tunisia.
Of those infected in Saudi Arabia, two were health workers who caught the virus from patients in their care — the first evidence of such transmission within a hospital, the WHO earlier said.