Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it had recorded 11 cases infected with the potentially deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus in Jeddah, including hospital staff.
Two of the patients died, six have recovered, while three are undergoing treatment, the official Saudi Press Agency reported quoting the Jeddah health authority.
The emergency department of King Fahd hospital in Jeddah was closed for disinfection after one health worker there tested positive for the virus and subsequent tests on other staff members showed further infections.
Some patients were transferred to other hospitals while the disinfection was carried out, the health authority said.
A nurse at King Abdel Aziz hospital had earlier tested positive for the virus but no other workers in that hospital were infected.
The health authority assured the public that no other hospitals in Jeddah had recorded any cases and denied rumours that more than two deaths had occurred.
MERS emerged in the Middle East in 2012 and is from the same family as the SARS virus. It can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia.
Although the worldwide number of MERS infections is fairly small, the more than 40 per cent death rate among confirmed cases and the spread of the virus beyond the Middle East is keeping scientists and public health officials on alert.
Cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Tunisia as well as in several countries in Europe, and scientists are increasingly focused on a link between the human infections and camels as a possible “animal reservoir” of the virus.