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A day earlier the health ministry reported that seven people had been infected; new cases are being detected on a near-daily basis in Saudi Arabia, that country’s health ministry recently reported.
On Sunday, the ministry tally of registered infected cases came to 480, of which 139 have died.
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)”.
The announcement in the capital Riyadh on Sunday seems to confirm a Columbia University study published in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology in February, which revealed that MERS-CoV had 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.
A study in Egypt has also determined that camels there are carrying MERS-COV. Published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, the report from Chinese, Egyptian and American scientists found that the camels (3.6 per cent of those tested) carrying the virus were imported from Sudan and Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities are advising that elderly people, children, and those suffering from chronic heart and chest diseases should put off travel to Saudi Arabia for the time being.
Last week, Egyptian media reported that a man returning from Saudi Arabia was found to have contracted the virus. His condition has stabilised, reports said.
But Egyptian national radio also reported that two ill women arriving from Saudi Arabia on May 6 were detained until medical authorities could confirm whether they had the virus.
WHO officials, however, say that any travel ban is unwarranted at this time.
On May 8, Lebanon became the 18th country to report finding the virus in a patient.
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.