JEDDAH – An old woman admitted to a hospital in Riyadh with a new virus from the same family as SARS has died, taking the global death toll from the previously unknown disease to seven.
The Saudi health ministry informed the World Health Organization (WHO) that the patient was hospitalized on Jan. 29 and died on Feb.10, WHO said in a statement.
A laboratory confirmed on Feb. 18 that the person had died from the so-called novel coronavirus, or NCoV, it added.
This brings to 13 the number of cases of the virus that have so far been reported to WHO since it was first detected in the middle of last year, with six previous fatalities – three in Saudi Arabia, two in Jordan and one in Britain.
Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health for Public Health Dr. Ziyad Meimish reassured the public that there was no cause for concern, as the death of the woman was an individual case.
He said that a prevention plan is being carried out by the Ministry of Health for coronavirus and all influenza viruses in the Kingdom.
The news comes just days after a person suffering from the virus died in hospital in central England Sunday.
That patient, who had a pre-existing health condition, was one of three people in the same family with the virus, which appeared to have been caught by one of the family members during a recent visit to the Middle East and Pakistan.
Even before the death in Britain, the WHO had Saturday urged its member states to keep a close eye on any cases of severe acute respiratory infections, like pneumonia, and to “carefully review any unusual patterns.”
Health authorities should test for NCoV in cases of unexplained pneumonia or other severe, “progressive or complicated respiratory illnesses not responding to treatment, particularly in persons traveling from or resident in areas of the world known to be affected,” it said.
It also urged testing of any health workers showing such symptoms, and thorough investigations of clusters of cases, regardless of where they occur in the world.
WHO said it was monitoring the situation closely but it did not believe special screening at airports or other points of entry was necessary, nor did it recommend any travel or trade restrictions.
Coronaviruses cause most common colds but can also cause SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). – Agencies