Saudi health minister claims MERS cases down 80%

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Saudi Arabia claims preventive measures have seen an 80 percent decline in the number of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome cases in the past six weeks.

In comments to the kingdom’s Shoura Council, acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih has attempted to down play concerns the fatal virus was escalating following a surge in infections and deaths in April.

He said 689 cases, including 283 deaths, had been reported since MERS was detected in the kingdom in September 2012.

There were 53 current patients receiving treatment, while 353 people had recovered from the virus.

Fakeih also ensured preventive measures would be intensified during the upcoming Umrah and Haj seasons, when millions of foreign and local Muslim pilgrims were expected to travel to the kingdom.

Virologists had raised concern over a significant rise in the number of MERS infections in Saudi Arabia in April, when it was common for multiple deaths to be reported daily.

The virus also spread as far as America and Asia for the first time.

The World Health Organisation held an extraordinary meeting to discuss whether to declare MERS an international health emergency. It decided not to.

Fakeih temporarily took over the health minister’s job after the former minister was sacked when a Jeddah hospital emergency department had to be closed and fully sterilised because health workers had been infected with MERS.

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