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Saudi Arabia Reports Three New Confirmed Cases Of MERS Infection

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced Tuesday that it has been informed of three additional laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia.

According to a WHO statement, the first patient is a 73-year-old woman from Riyadh who became ill on November 12. She was hospitalized on November 14, but died four days later. The second patient is a 65 year-old man with an underlying medical condition from Jawf region who became ill on November 4 and was hospitalized on November 14.

The third patient is a 37-year-old man from Riyadh who became ill on November 9. Although he was hospitalized on November 13, he died five days later. Notably, none of the three patients had exposure to animals or contact to a previously laboratory-confirmed case with MERS-CoV.

From September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 160 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV globally, including 68 deaths.

Based on the current situation and available information, WHO has urged all Member-States to continue their surveillance for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) and carefully review any unusual patterns.

The agency reminded healthcare facilities of the importance of systematic implementation of infection prevention and control, and urged them to decrease the risk of transmission of MERS-CoV virus to other patients, health care workers and visitors.

WHO said it had "convened an Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) to advise the Director-General on the status of the current situation."

"The Emergency Committee, which comprises international experts from all WHO Regions, unanimously advised that, with the information now available, and using a risk-assessment approach, the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not at present been met," the statement added.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a range of ailments from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which became an epidemic in 2003. The virus could be transmitted between people in close and prolonged contact. The sources of infection for the new coronavirus are still unclear.

The deadly Novel Coronavirus (NCoV) strain, recently renamed MERS-CoV, reflects the fact that most of the reported cases are from that region, mainly Saudi Arabia.

Nevertheless, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and the United Kingdom have also reported laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infections. Those patients were either transferred there for care of the disease or returned from the Middle East and subsequently became ill.

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