SARS-like virus kills two in Saudi Arabia

May 6, 2013 at 10:29 PM
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, May 6 (UPI) -- The deaths of a 62-year-old woman and a 71-year-old man heightened worries in Saudi Arabia and abroad the SARS-like virus may be escalating, officials say.

The outbreak of the Middle East-based disease -- mostly in Saudi Arabia -- known as the novel coronavirus or a severe acute respiratory syndrome-like virus has sickened 30 and killed 18, worries international medical officials and Saudi residents that the kingdom was not disclosing enough information to help control the virus, the Gulf News reported.

Thirteen people were infected from April 14 to May 1, nearly half of the 30 total cases that have been reported to the World Health Organization.

Saudi Deputy Health Minister Ziad Memish emailed the two deaths and another case of a patient in critical condition with coronavirus to the international Promed medical website. The email stated no community transmission appeared likely in the latest outbreak, but didn't clarify or elaborate further on the cases, the News said.

Some sickened had contact with camels or goats, suggesting animals might be carriers for the virus, but others had contact only with other people carrying the virus, WHO officials said.

Two emails posted on Promed over the past few days suggested the virus spread multiple times from one person to another.

"It has to be person to person -- I can't imagine any other way," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Gulf News. "Animal contact doesn't appear to play a role at all. ... This should really cause concern."

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