MERS deaths in Saudi Arabia pass 100

MERS deaths in Saudi Arabia pass 100

JEDDAH - Agence France-Presse
MERS deaths in Saudi Arabia pass 100

Saudi hospital employees wear mouth and nose masks as they stand outside the a local hospital's emergency department, on April 22, in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah. AFP Photo

The MERS death toll in Saudi Arabia topped 100 on April 27 as the authorities scrambled to reassure an increasingly edgy population in the country worst-hit by the infectious coronavirus.

Public fears have been fuelled by a rapid rise in the number of fatalities from the respiratory infection, with 39 people dying this month, well over a third of the 102 deaths registered since the virus emerged in April 2012.

It said the total number of cases diagnosed since the virus was first recorded in the kingdom has reached 339, representing the bulk of infections registered worldwide. MERS infections are rising steadily just months ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage to the Muslim sacred sites in Mecca and Medina, which this year comes in September.

Experts are still struggling to understand MERS, for which there is no known vaccine. It is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus which erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.

Riyadh dismissed the health minister earlier this month without saying why, and Labor Minister Adel Fakieh, appointed acting health minister, promised “transparency” over MERS.