Another Dies in Saudi Arabia from MERS Virus, Death Tally Now at 56

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | December 23, 2013 2:58 PM EST

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that has gripped Saudi Arabia since September 2012 has claimed another life, bringing to 56 its latest death tally in the kingdom.

The latest victim was a 73-year-old, chronically ill man, the kingdom's Health Ministry reported over the weekend. The man died in a Riyadh hospital.

Three new cases of MERS-CoV were likewise reported. They include two foreign nationals working in healthcare who got exposed to patients suffering from the virus as well as a Saudi man who is confined in intensive care and is chronically ill.

To date, there are now a total of 169 MERS-CoV cases confirmed. These are mainly located in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

MERS-CoV is a cousin of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which made a global outbreak in 2003, infecting more than 8,000 and killing some 800 people. But compared to SARS, the MERS-CoV is considered less-transmissible but nonetheless deadlier.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, cough, chills, pneumonia and the need for respiratory support, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

The MERS-CoV first emerged in the Middle East. It was on September 2012 in a Qatari man who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia.

"CDC recognizes the potential for the virus to spread further and cause more cases and clusters globally, including in the United States," the Center said on its Web site.

Cases have been identified in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Tunisia.

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