Five Saudis have died after becoming infected with a deadly new SARS-like coronavirus, authorities said Thursday — the same virus that sickened people in the UK, Jordan, and Germany, as well as in what is thought to be its Saudi origin point.
The Daily Star reports that five Saudis have died of the disease in recent days while two others are gravely ill, all hailing from the eastern Ahsaa province of the country.
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The Saudi Health Ministry said in a statement published by the BBC that it had taken "all precautionary measures for persons who have been in contact with the infected people... and has taken samples from them to examine if they are infected."
More details weren't forthcoming, although the WHO is likely to issue more details about the newest rash of cases soon.
The new coronavirus, somewhat related to SARS (which struck Asia in the early 2000s, killing 774) has now been officially dubbed hCoV-EMC, which is lengthened to human coronavirus-Erasmus Medical Centre.
A total of 23 cases of the disease have been detected so far in multiple countries, with 16 deaths — the majority, at 11, from the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh.
According to the WHO, the novel coronavirus bears a resemblance to a disease commonly found in bats, though it's thought unlikely that any of the infected came into close quarters with these animals. Investigations into a possible animal source for the disease are ongoing.
It's suspected that the disease can be transferred from human to human, but these cases are thought to be rare. Further, researchers are unsure if the disease is actually rare, or is simply too mild to detect in most victims.
Hong Kong researchers speculated in March that the new coronavirus could potentially be worse than SARS, due to its ability to cause the failure of multiple organs.