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.
Both Moscow and Kiev have accused the other of shooting across the border, and Ukraine says missiles shot from Russia may have downed two of its fighter jets this week
"The federal government has requisitioned the services of the Pakistan army in aid of civil power in Islamabad," the prime minister's office said
Clashes were also reported in Jerusalem after Israeli authorities barred Muslims from performing Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Police said the bomb was left in a vehicle about 50 metres from a hotel in the town of Betong, which is popular with tourists from nearby Malaysia
At least 3 hae been confirmed dead, 10 rescued and 8 missing after an overloaded vessel carrying illegal Indonesian workers capsized.
Israeli air force dropped about 3,000 tons of explosives on the Gaza Strip in the first 15 days of the conflict, including 120 tons in the border town of Shejaia alone
Banned substances include gasoline and firecrackers, but also drinking water, cooking oil and yogurt.
Abbott said that Russian-backed rebels who control the area were tampering with evidence on "an industrial scale" and argued that outside police or possibly military forces were needed to ensure that did not continue.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said leaders should show flexibility so that political deadlocks could be broken and Iraq could confront militants.
State media said "millions" of people joined the rallies nationwide, which were called to mark Iran's annual day of solidarity with Palestinians.
At least three women and a three-year-old child were among those killed.
Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades was enraged when Turkish Cypriot president Dervis Eroglu refused to accept certain proposed terms, raising his voice, slamming his fist and throwing his glasses across the room in anger.
Jordanian government spokesman said the "aerial target was shot after being intercepted" when it violated Jordanian air space near the northern border city of Mafraq.
U.N. health agency said that four hospitals, including al Aqsa hospital in the coastal strip, had been damaged in the conflict that began on July 8 when Israel launched air strikes
Yatseniuk, Ukraine's point man for the West during much of the turmoil in the country since November, tendered his resignation on Thursday, saying parliament was betraying its people's demands
Brazil called the escalation of violence "unacceptable" and recalled its ambassador for consultations.