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New MERS-coronavirus cases in Saudi bring global total to 102: WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) headquarters are pictured in Geneva April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
The World Health Organisation (WHO) headquarters are pictured in Geneva April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - Eight more people in Saudi Arabia have contracted the MERS coronavirus, bringing the number of confirmed infections worldwide in the past year to 102, of whom almost half have died, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

Two of the men from Riyadh, who were already suffering from chronic diseases, died, while most of the other victims remain in intensive care, it said.

Additionally, a person with a previously laboratory-confirmed case from the United Arab Emirates has died, it said.

"Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 102 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 49 deaths," the WHO said in a statement.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, emerged in Saudi Arabia last year and has been reported in people in the Gulf, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain.

In a study into what kind of animal "reservoir" may be fuelling the outbreak in humans, scientists said this month they had found strong evidence it is widespread among dromedary camels in the Middle East.

The WHO, a U.N. agency, has not recommended any travel restrictions but has urged health authorities worldwide to maintain vigilance. Recent travelers returning from the Middle East who develop severe respiratory infections should be tested for MERS-CoV, it said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams)

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