Published — Monday 27 May 2013
Last update 31 May 2013 8:31 pm
RIYADH: The octogenarian woman in Al-Ahsa who had contracted the SARS-like coronavirus has died, raising the death toll in the Kingdom to 18 and the world total at 23, a Ministry of Health statement said on Sunday.
"An 81-year-old woman who was suffering from kidney failure as well as other chronic illnesses has died" in the eastern Al-Ahsa region after contracting the virus, the statement said.
Now called by the MERS-CoV by the World Health Organization, short for Middle East Respiratory Virus - corona virus, 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.
On May 18, the WHO included the 81-year-old woman in Al-Ahsa as case number 41 in its list of MERS-CoV victims worldwide. It cited a report of the Saudi MOH saying the woman became ill on April 28, 2013, and was "currently in critical but stable condition."
"She was in the same health care facility previously identified as the focus of this outbreak, from 8 to 28 April 2013," it added.
The facility referred to had earlier been identified by health officials as a hospital in Hofuf town in Al-Ahsa.
In its latest update on May 23, the WHO placed the worldwide total of laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection at 44 since the virus was discovered by scientists in September 2012.
Saudi Arabia counts by far the most cases, with 30 confirmed infections and 18 fatalities, while cases have also been detected in Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, UAE, Germany, Britain and France.
Most cases have been registered in the east, with the ministry saying that most of those who died were "elderly people with chronic illnesses."
The 17th fatality was a 63-year-old Syrian man in the central province of Qassim, the first non-Saudi in the kingdom to catch MERS-CoV.
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.
The WHO said that much uncertainty remained surrounding the virus, stressing that it aimed to work closely with Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and perhaps other Middle Eastern countries to determine how great the risk is.