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Saudi Arabia records 49 MERS cases in one week

Saudi Arabia records 49 MERS cases in one week

Riyadh saw 47 MERS cases over the last week while the cities of Najran and Abha recorded one infection each during this period

Saudi Arabia’s ministry of health has confirmed 49 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the country, the biggest weekly jump in infections this year.

Riyadh continued to be the epicentre of infections as it saw 47 confirmed cases while one each was reported in Najran and Abha from August 16 to August 22, state news agency WAM reported.

Six new MERS cases were also reported on Sunday with most of them in Riyadh. The latest surge has also triggered concerns of an outbreak similar to that in early 2014.

The kingdom has recorded about 107 MERS cases since the start of August after a relative slow down in the number of infections. Till date 1,147 people were reported to have affected by MERS in Saudi Arabia while 487 have passed away since 2012, official data show.

MERS, a virus similar to SARS, is a respiratory disease that causes coughing, fever and breathing problems and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

The virus is reportedly contracted through exposure to infected individuals, from hospitals and by direct contact with camels, which are believed to be carriers.

There is no cure or vaccine for MERS, which kills around 40 per cent of its victims.

Experts have also been unable to explain the seasonal surge of MERS, especially in Saudi Arabia. However disease control specialists have previously criticised the country’s health authorities for not taking enough steps to curb the spread of the disease.

The kingdom has replaced its health ministers four times since the outbreak of the disease in 2012. Health authorities in the kingdom have also urged residents to refrain from consuming camel meat or milk over fears of the disease spreading.

The surge in infections has also led to concerns among potential visitors ahead of the Haj season when thousands of Muslims flock to the holy sites within Saudi Arabia to perform their pilgrimage.

However health authorities have assured that all necessary measures are being taken to bring the spread of MERS under control.

A representative from the World Health Organisation is also due to arrive in the kingdom this week to study about the recent spike in infections.

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