Four more die from MERS virus in Saudi Arabia

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Four more people have died and three more have fallen ill in Saudi Arabia from the new SARS-like coronavirus MERS-CoV, the Saudi Health Ministry has said.

The ministry said the four deaths were among previously registered cases. The new infections were in Eastern Province, in the capital Riyadh and in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia has been the country most affected by the respiratory-system virus, with 49 confirmed cases, of whom 32 have died, according to data from the ministry.

The worldwide death toll released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on June 15 stood at 34.

The virus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, has spread from the Gulf to France, Britain and Germany. The WHO has called it the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

It is a distant relative of the virus that triggered the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that swept the world in late 2003 and killed 775 people.

The origin of the MERS virus is still unclear. So far, it appears to spread between people only when there is close, prolonged contact.

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