MERS virus spreading

PHOTO: MERS virus spreading

RIYADH - Saudi health authorities announced on Wednesday two new deaths from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) in the kingdom, where 16 more infections were also detected.

A 41-year-old man in the north-western city of Tabuk and an 88-year-old in Riyadh died of the coronavirus, bringing to 107 the total deaths since the disease appeared in the kingdom in September 2012, the health ministry said.

At the same time, the ministry said 16 new infections nationwide have raised the total number of cases diagnosed to 361, representing the bulk of infections registered globally.

Public concern over the spread of Mers mounted earlier this month after the resignation of at least four doctors at Jeddah's King Fahd Hospital who refused to treat patients for fear of infection.

Acting health minister Adel Fakieh said on Tuesday that measures to contain the spread of Mers "will be announced in the coming days" as Western experts and representatives of the World Health Organisation met in Riyadh this week.

Mers is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the Sars virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine per cent of whom died.

There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments for Mers, a severe respiratory disease with a mortality rate of more than 40 per cent that experts are still struggling to understand.