Egypt investigates suspected MERS coronavirus death

ISMAILIA Egypt Mon May 5, 2014 5:20am EDT

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ISMAILIA Egypt (Reuters) - Egyptian authorities are investigating whether a 60-year-old woman who has died in the city of Port Said had the SARS-like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). If confirmed, it would be Egypt's first death from the virus.

The woman had recently returned from an Islamic pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, where the MERS coronavirus emerged in 2012, Helmi el-Efni, a Health Ministry official from the city on the Suez Canal, said on Monday.

The MERS coronavirus is from the same family as the SARS virus, which killed around 800 people worldwide after first appearing in China in 2002. MERS can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia.

Authorities last week reported Egypt's first MERS case, a man who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia and was being treated at a hospital in Cairo.

MERS has no vaccine or anti-viral treatment, but international and Saudi health authorities say it does not transmit easily between people and may simply die out.

Scientists say the most likely animal reservoir, from which new cases are becoming infected, is Saudi Arabia's population of camels.

Saudi Arabia has recorded 411 cases and 112 deaths so far, its Health Ministry said on Saturday.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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