Saudi Arabia has announced eight new deaths from the MERS coronavirus, taking the kingdom’s death toll from the disease since it was discovered in 2012 to 102.
The Saudi health ministry reported that a nine-month-old infant had died on Sunday, raising this month’s fatalities to 39.
The ministry said the number of recorded infections had risen to 339, with 143 cases announced since the start of April, representing a 73 percent jump in total infections.
Among the latest infections were four medical staff at a single hospital in Tabuk in the country’s northwest.
Panic over the spread of the virus among medical staff in the western city of Jeddah led to the temporary closure of a main hospital’s emergency room.
At least four doctors at Jeddah’s King Fahd Hospital resigned earlier this month after refusing to treat MERS patients for fear of infection.
The kingdom dismissed the health minister earlier this month with the newly appointed acting health minister promising “transparency” over MERS.
King Abdullah is said to have travelled to Jeddah on Thursday to reassure the public and demonstrate that “exaggerated and false rumours” about MERS are false, said his son, National Guard Minister Prince Mitab.
Experts are still struggling to understand the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, for which there is no known vaccine.
The World Health Organisation announced on Wednesday that it had offered to send international experts to Saudi Arabia to investigate “any evolving risk” associated with the transmission pattern of the virus.
A recent study said the virus has been “extraordinarily common” in camels for at least 20 years, and it may have been passed from the animals to humans and now evolved.
It is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus which erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.