World Bulletin/News Desk
Two people who died in Jordan in April have been found to have been infected with the new virus from the same family as SARS which sparked a global alert in September, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.
The coronavirus, previously unknown in humans, has now been confirmed in a total of nine people in three countries in the Middle East region, including a Saudi who had severe acute respiratory illness last month, the United Nations agency said.
But the two fatal cases in Jordan, confirmed in samples just retested by a WHO collaborating laboratory in Egypt, do not change WHO's assessment that the virus does not appear to spread easily between people, if at all, spokesman Gregory Hartl said.
"These Jordan cases don't change our risk assessment at the moment. We haven't seen any new pattern. These are old cases," Hartl told Reuters.
In a statement, the Geneva-based WHO said: "Two fatal cases in Jordan have been reported to WHO today, bringing the total of laboratory-confirmed cases to nine."
Initially, the samples had tested negative for known coronaviruses and other respiratory viruses in April.
"As the novel coronavirus had not yet been discovered, no specific tests for it were available," the agency said.
The new virus shares some of the symptoms of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which emerged in China in 2002, spread easily among people and killed around a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.
"Based on current information, it does not appear to trasmit easily between people, unlike the SARS virus," WHO said.
The new virus can appear to be pneumonia and acute kidney failure has occurred in five cases, the WHO said.
In all, five cases of the new virus, including three deaths have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia, including three patients in one family, it said. Two cases have been confirmed in Qatar, and both are recovering, while both cases in Jordan were fatal.
The Jordan cases were among a total of 12 cases of severe acute respiratory illness that erupted last April linked to a hospital in Zarqa some 40 kilometres (24 miles) outside Amman, Hartl said. Most were health workers, he added.
"The link is the hospital. It could be some environmental thing or human-to-human transmission," he said.
"The main thing is the fact that even if it were human-to-human transmission, which we don't know, it doesn't seem to spread very well or efficiently," Hartl said.
The two so-called "clusters" of cases, in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, raised the possibility of "limited human-to-human tranmission", or exposure to a common source, the WHO said.
"Ongoing investigation may or may not be able to distinguish between these possibilities," it said, noting some viruses are transmitted within families but are not transmissible enough to cause large community outbreaks.
The WHO urged health authorities in its 194 member states to continue surveillance for the new virus and investigate any unusual patterns.
"Testing for the new coronavirus of patients with unexplained pneumonias should be considered, especially in persons residing in or returning from the Arabian peninsula and neighbouring countries," it said.
Families will be allowed into the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, used mostly for football matches, and seated separately from single men to mark the kingdom's 87th National Day this weekend.
Despite PKK’s terror campaign in Turkey, US continues to supply PYD – the PKK’s Syrian affiliate – with weapons
Three high-level Catalan politicians reportedly detained in attempts to block 'illegal' independence referendum
Sisi emphasised the importance of "resuming negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides to reach a comprehensive solution," the statement said.
Decision would ‘yield no results for the United States', Iranian president says
Israeli media reported that it had fired a Patriot missile. No casualties or damage were reported.
KRG's economic clout, driven by oil revenue, could be at risk if Turkey objects to independence vote, energy expert says
7 others also injured in attack on village in northwestern Idlib province
84 percent of 1,980,510 people internally displaced for over a year, UNHCR says
Talking to Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud Abbas praises 'atmosphere of compromise' in Palestine after deal between Hamas and Fatah
He hit out at the US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, for making a "host of unjustifiable, peculiar demands" in talks with IAEA chief Yukiya Amano in Vienna last month.
The request to block Al Jazeera's Snapchat presence in the kingdom was made before the weekend, the company told AFP.
The soldier carried out the killings "suddenly and without the consent of his colleagues" during an interrogation on Saturday, the source said.
A local official told AFP the coalition air raid hit a vehicle carrying the 12 civilians on Saturday in Hareeb Al-Qarameesh in Marib province, about 70 km (43 miles) northeast of Sanaa.
Court confirms life sentence handed down earlier against Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely-elected president
About 93,000 people in Deir ez-Zour -- the largest city in eastern Syria -- had been besieged by ISIL since 2014