Saudi Arabia confirms another death from SARS-like virus

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Saudi Arabia has announced another death from the SARS-like novel coronavirus (nCoV) in its central al-Qassim region, bringing the total number of deaths in the kingdom to 17.

A non-Saudi, whose nationality and age were not given, died on Tuesday, the Health Ministry said on its website late on Wednesday. It said he had been admitted to a hospital in al-Qassim several days ago with an "acute respiratory syndrome".

"Most cases recorded so far are among elderly patients and people with multiple chronic diseases," it added.

A World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman confirmed it had been notified of the new death from the disease, which the WHO plans to call Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

"It is in a different area and doesn't appear to be linked to the recent outbreak and cluster in the eastern part of the country," Glenn Thomas told reporters in Geneva.

The WHO's tally of people who have died in the kingdom from nCoV/MERS since it surfaced last year is 18, including one who died in Britain last year after arriving from Saudi Arabia.

The virus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, is from the same family as the one responsible for an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed 775 people worldwide in 2003.

The WHO says a total of 44 cases of the new virus have been recorded so far, 22 of them fatal. Saudi Arabia has had 33 of the cases.

WHO officials say the new virus appears to be transmissible between humans, but only after prolonged, close contact.

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