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The announcement came as Saudi officials reported 10 more MERS cases over the weekend; two have since died. This brings the total to 127 reported cases since April 1, a startling spike in infections, health experts say. Since 2012, 94 of a total 323 infected in Saudi Arabia have died.
The Egyptian case has raised fears that the virus, which has a 30-40 per cent fatality rate so far, could spread in the region.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had previously said that “cases have also been reported by three countries in Europe—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (UK)—and by Tunisia, in North Africa”.
“All the European and North African cases have had a direct or indirect connection to the Middle East,” WHO said at the time.
According to the WHO website, “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses; different members of this family cause illness in humans and animals. In humans, these illnesses range from the common cold to infection with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS CoV)”.
In February, a Columbia University study published in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology has revealed that the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which was discovered in 2012, has also been found in camels of the Arabian Peninsula.
But further study is needed, the report says, to determine if and how the virus spread from camel to human, and if the animal is itself the source of the disease.
The study urges people avoid contact with camels’ noses or mouths.