CORRECTED-Egypt warns against travel to Saudi Arabia due to MERS virus

Fri May 2, 2014 9:11am EDT

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(Corrects to say Egyptian case first reported on Saturday)

CAIRO May 2 (Reuters) - Egypt's Health Ministry issued a warning on Friday against children, elderly people and anyone suffering from chronic heart and chest diseases travelling to Saudi Arabia due to an outbreak there of a deadly new virus.

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday the number of cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), an often fatal disease caused by a coronavirus, had nearly doubled in April, with 26 more infections reported on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Of the more than 370 people who caught the disease in Saudi Arabia, 107 have died since MERS first emerged two years ago.

The first case of the disease in Egypt was reported on Saturday - a 27-year-old man who lives in Saudi Arabia but returned ill to Egypt last week after having been in contact with an uncle in the kingdom who died of MERS.

International concern about the disease is acute because Saudi Arabia is expected to receive large numbers of foreign pilgrims during the fasting month of Ramadan in July, followed by millions more for Islam's annual haj pilgrimage in October.

In a statement, Egypt's health ministry said that anyone under the age of 15 or older than 65, as well as pregnant women and people suffering from chronic heart and chest diseases, should postpone pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.

It said no further MERS cases had been confirmed in Egypt. The man who contracted the virus is in a stable condition in a hospital in Cairo, a health ministry official told Reuters. (Reporting by Shadia Nasralla, editing by Kate Kelland and Mark Heinrich)

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