Saudi panic as virus spreads

More and more people are reporting to emergency centres in Saudi Arabia as panic over the new coronavirus sets in, reports AFP

by The Commentator on 14 May 2013 11:15

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A state of panic is being reported from Riyadh as the deadly new coronavirus continues to spread in the east of Saudi Arabia.

The death toll from the "Sars-like" virus is now around 15, and the Agence France Press reports that 'scores of people' have reported to emergency service centres at hospitals with suspected symptoms.

“I felt the symptoms of a cold, accompanied by a fever,” a young man told AFP by telephone on Monday from one hospital where he was admitted and placed in quarantine.

“I came to hospital. The symptoms disappeared by the end of the day, but I am still kept in a quarantine with other patients, which scares me,” he said, asking to remain anonymous.

Those reporting similar symptoms are also being isolated as a precautionary measure, as the virus has displayed an ability to pass from human-to-human within close range.

So far, 15 of the 24 who have contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia have died, and the virus, which can cause multiple organ failure, has claim 2 victims in the UK, out of the 4 that contracted it since late last year.

Cases have also been reported in Jordan, Germany and France where two patients are now in hospital in the northern city of Lille.

The new virus is said to be a 'cousin' of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which triggered a scare 10 years ago when it erupted in east Asia, leaping to humans from animal hosts and eventually killing some 800 people.

Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading said: "The WHO data do indicate probable human-to-human transmission. However, the circumstances are unusual – close contact in a hospital, and other patients co-housed with the index case did not become infected. This does not amount to human-to-human transmission 'on the street' so the risk remains very low. The most important goal remains to locate the source of infection so that measures to minimise contact can be taken."

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