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Saudi Health Ministry Confirms Coronavirus in Al-Ahsa - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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This undated image released by the British Health Protection Agency shows an electron microscope image of a coronavirus, part of a family of viruses that cause ailments including the common cold and SARS, which was first identified last year in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Health Protection Agency)

This undated image released by the British Health Protection Agency shows an electron microscope image of a coronavirus, part of a family of viruses that cause ailments including the common cold and SARS, which was first identified last year in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Health Protection Agency)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) is awaiting the results of a report by a special medical commission into the deaths of five people from the coronavirus in Al-Ahsa province. Two others were admitted into intensive care, bringing the total number of coronavirus virus cases in the world to 24.

Late Friday, Saudi authorities reportedly confirmed three more coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases in recent days to 10.

Dr. Ziad Memish, Saudi Deputy Minister of Health stated: “The team will run tests on the 7 individuals who came into contact with the virus.”

“The disease remains a mystery to us and we have not discovered any vaccine or cure for this virus,” he added.

He confirmed that the Saudi Health ministry is taking a number of precautionary measures to ensure that the virus does not spread, revealing that samples have been taken from all those in close contact with the infected people to ensure their safety.

He noted: “It is difficult to predict the possibility of the virus spreading since we still don’t have enough information.”

“Our focus right now is to discover the disease’s modes of transmission, as that would facilitate the implementation of preventive measures,” the deputy minister said.

“We are also monitoring the virus in all parts of the Kingdom through the regional directorates of the MoH,” he added.

The virus—known as nCoV—is a cousin of SARS, causing severe pneumonia among those infected, but does not spread easily between people. SARS killed more than 750 people in 2003.

MoH received positive confirmation of the coronavirus at the regional laboratory in Jeddah, the only lab in Saudi Arabia capable of analyzing and detecting the virus.

According to Dr. Saeed Alamoudi, regional director of the Jeddah laboratory, the analysis of coronavirus samples requires special procedures, including DNA analysis.

Regarding claims that the virus is linked to hereditary or biological predispositions, Dr. Alamoudi acknowledged that the laboratory is still dealing with statistics, adding that information is scarce.

MoH had previously announced that two brothers had been infected by the virus but Dr. Memish stressed: “We cannot link the virus to the physiology of the victims,” calling on everybody to wait for the official report.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an official statement responded to the outbreak, encouraging authorities to continue surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and note any unusual patterns.

“WHO is currently working with international experts and countries where cases have been reported to assess the situation and review recommendations for surveillance and monitoring,” the agency said.

WHO continues to advise against screening at points of entry, nor has it recommended any travel or trade restrictions.