(Refiles to show that the 32 new cases covered both Wednesday
RIYADH May 8 Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it
had identified 32 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
(MERS), pushing the total number of infections in the country so
far to 463.
Four people died of the disease on Wednesday and five on
Thursday, taking the total death toll in Saudi Arabia to 126
since MERS, a form of coronavirus, was identified two years ago,
the Health Ministry said in a statement on its website.
The rate of infection in Saudi Arabia has surged in recent
weeks after big outbreaks associated with hospitals in Jeddah
and Riyadh. The total number of infections nearly doubled in
April and has risen by a further 25 percent already in May.
The World Health Organisation said on Wednesday the hospital
outbreaks had been partly due to "breaches" in recommended
infection prevention and control measures, but added that there
was no evidence of a change in the virus's ability to spread.
Scientists around the world have been searching for the
animal source, or reservoir, of MERS virus infections ever since
the first human cases were confirmed in September 2012.
Of the new cases, 18 were announced late on Wednesday and 14
late on Thursday.
Eleven of them were in Jeddah, 14 in the capital Riyadh, one
in Najran and one in Taif. There were four new cases in Medina
and one in Mecca, cities that receive large influxes of Muslim
pilgrims from around the world.
Ten of them had been in contact with people who had
previously been diagnosed as having MERS, the ministry said.
In humans, MERS cause coughing, fever and pneumonia. Lebanon
reported its first case on Thursday. Cases have also been
reported in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab
Emirates, Malaysia, Oman, Tunisia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy
(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Andrew Roche)