JEDDAH: Five more deaths from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus were announced by the Ministry of Health, raising the country’s death toll to 92.
A statement posted overnight on the ministry’s website said four of the fatalities were among 14 cases confirmed over the past 24 hours, while one death was from those who have been previously announced to be infected with the virus.
Three of the new deaths (two males and a female) were reported by the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, while Prince Sultan Military Medical City in Riyadh and Al-Noor Hospital in Makkah reach reported one death.
Of the 14 new cases, seven were in Jeddah, four in Riyadh, and three in Makkah. Of the patients, four are nurses, including two in Makkah and one each in Riyadh and Jeddah.
Among the five who died were two elderly Palestinians and a Bangladeshi woman in her 40s, the statement said. The other victims were Saudis.
Of the nurses who have contracted the virus, one was a 28-year-old female Filipino working at Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Hospital in Riyadh, but the bulletin said she hasn’t developed any symptoms.
Two other Filipino nurses, both working at Al-Noor Hospital in Makkah, also contacted the virus. One was a 40-year-old female who has been in contact with a confirmed case, but hasn’t developed any symptoms.
The other was a 30-year-old male, also in contact with a confirmed case, and developed mild respiratory symptoms , but whose health status is stable.
The fourth nurse is a 30-year-old female Indian working at King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, who has been in contact with a confirmed case, but hasn’t developed any symptoms.
The new confirmed cases has brought the total in the Kingdom to 313 since the virus was first discovered by health scientists in September 2012.
Public concern over the spread of MERS mounted last week after the resignation of at least four doctors at Jeddah’s King Fahd Hospital who refused to treat patients for fear of infection.
On Thursday, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah visited Jeddah in a bid to reassure the public amid fears the virus had mutated to make it more transmissible from person to person.
National Guard Minister Prince Miteb said his father King Abdullah went to Jeddah “to reassure the public and to prove that the exaggerated and false rumors about coronavirus are not true.”
“The MERS situation is reassuring and it has not reached the level of an epidemic,” he said.
Labor Minister Adel Fakeih, who has taken over as acting health minister from Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, has promised “transparency and to promptly provide the media and society with the information needed.”
The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that it had offered to send international experts to Saudi Arabia to investigate “any evolving risk” associated with the transmission pattern of the virus.
MERS is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus which erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.
• Additional reporting by Agence France Presse