The Health Ministry has announced a total of 23 confirmed new cases
this month of the virus, which causes coughing, fever and sometimes
fatal pneumonia. In addition to the 12 cases detected in September,
this brings the total number in the kingdom to 777 since it was
identified in 2012, of which 331 died.
Other cases have been found elsewhere in the Middle East, in
European countries, the Far East and in the United States, but many
of those were found in people who had traveled in Saudi Arabia.
"The Health Ministry... urged adherence to preventative measures to
curb the spread of the disease, and to avoiding contact with
infected camels, and an emphasis on measures to combat infection in
health facilities," said a statement carried by the official Saudi
The increase in cases in October has been evident across the
country, Health Ministry figures show, with seven confirmed cases in
Riyadh, six in Mecca, five in Taif and one each in Medina, al-Jouf,
Najran, Hofuf and Jubail. Three of the new cases were health
Scientists are not sure of the origin of the virus, but several
studies have linked it to camels and some experts think it is being
passed to humans through close physical contact or through the
consumption of camel meat or camel milk.
The disease can then spread between people, and the largest previous
outbreaks, including one in Jeddah in April and May that infected
hundreds, have been linked to poor infection control procedures in
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International health monitors had worried that the disease might be
spread abroad through the haj pilgrimage, which took place early
this month in Mecca.
Saudi authorities said at the end of haj that they had not detected
any new cases of MERS among pilgrims, but of the new cases confirmed
in October, seven were in the pilgrimage centers of Mecca and Medina
and five in nearby Taif, which many pilgrims also visit.
(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Toby Chopra)
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