Four new deaths from MERS virus in Saudi Arabia
MERS cases have also been reported in Jordan, Egypt and the UAE (File/AFP)
Health officials in Saudi Arabia have announced four new deaths from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) as the kingdom battles to contain the disease that has killed 121 people so far.
Officials said on Thursday that two of the deaths were reported late Wednesday, a 65-year-old woman and a 45-year-old woman. The two died in the capital, Riyadh on Tuesday.
A 60-year-old man and a 70-year-old woman also died in Jeddah on Tuesday, the officials further said.
The officials added that 18 new cases of the disease were recorded in the kingdom, including a 10-year-old boy.
The boy was taken to a hospital in Jeddah on April 29 following an accident. He was discharged from the hospital on May 2, but was rushed to intensive care after MERS symptoms began to appear.
Meanwhile, the number of MERS infections in Saudi Arabia has risen to 449 since the illness first appeared in the kingdom in September 2012.
On Tuesday, acting Health Minister Adel Fakieh dismissed the head of Jeddah's King Fahd Hospital, where a spike in MERS infections among medical staff sparked panic among the public.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that breaches in its "recommended infection prevention and control measures" were the reasons for the rise in infections in Jeddah.
"The majority of human-to-human infections occurred in health care facilities. One quarter of all cases have been health care workers," the body added after a five-day mission to the city.
MERS is regarded as a deadlier but less transmissible cousin of the SARS virus, which first broke out in Asia in 2003 and infected more than 8,000 people.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, MERS has been reported in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain.