Middle East

Saudi Arabia sees Mers deaths surge

Microscope image showing the spherical particles of Mers-CoV within the cytoplasm of an infected cell Image copyright Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
Image caption This image shows spherical virus particles within the cytoplasm of an infected cell

Saudi Arabia has announced four more deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers), bringing the number of deaths in the past week to 17.

Health officials admit they are worried by the timing, as the kingdom prepares to welcome around two million Muslims for the Hajj next month.

Mers infections have been recorded in countries across the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

The virus first emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says many of the recent cases are associated with an outbreak at a hospital in Riyadh.

Mers is caused by a coronavirus, a type of virus which includes the common cold and Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

Globally, at least 515 people have died as a result of Mers since September 2012, according to the WHO.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Muslims around the world - including these in Srinagar, India - are preparing to travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj

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