Saudi health authorities today reported a new death from the Mers coronavirus, pushing to 169 the overall number of fatalities from the disease in the country.
The health ministry said on its website that the latest person to fall victim to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was a 59-year-old man who died yesterday in the western city of Taif. Saudi Arabia is the worst-hit by the virus.
Other nations including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and the United States have also recorded cases, mostly in people who had been to the desert kingdom.
Mers is considered a deadlier but less transmissible cousin of the Sars virus that appeared in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine per cent of whom died.
Like Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), it appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering coughing, breathing difficulties and a temperature. But Mers differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure.
Apart from the 59-year-old, there were another five reported Mers deaths in Saudi, including two men aged 67 and 55, and an 80-year-old woman in Jeddah. The port city of Jeddah is where a spate of Mers cases among staff at King Fahd Hospital last month led to the dismissal of its director and the health minister.
In addition, a 71-year-old man and another aged 77 died in Riyadh and Medina respectively, the ministry website reported.
The World Health Organisation carried out a five-day inspection visit to Saudi Arabia this month and pinpointed breaches in its recommended infection prevention measures as being partly responsible for the spike in hospital infections.