Saudi Arabia has six new cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, or MERS, the country's health ministry confirmed Sunday, the Saudi Gazette reported. The new infections were detected from 644 samples tested throughout the kingdom.
The cases were reported in the capital Riyadh as well as in Dammam and Turbah. Since September 2012, Saudi Arabia has had 1,015 reported cases of the virus, more than any other, according to Coronamap.com, which gathers data from the World Health Organization and local health ministries. Of those, 373 recovered and 435 died, as of late June, when the country had 207 active cases.
The virus has made headlines in recent months for an outbreak in South Korea that has infected 185 people there and killed 33 as of Saturday. It has sparked a panic in Asia, with South Koreans publicly donning medical masks and an estimated 20,000 tourists cancelling plans to visit the country. South Korea's economy has suffered as a result, with the government unveiling a $14.3 billion stimulus package Friday.
The MERS virus, thought to have originated from camels, kills 30 percent to 40 percent of those it infects. Like other coronaviruses, which are common viruses that afflict the upper respiratory system, such as the nose, sinuses or upper throat, it is believed to spread through droplets emitted from a cough or a sneeze. However, the precise transmission process is not fully understood, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC lists fever, coughing and shortness or breath as standard symptoms, although gastrointestinal problems have been reported as well. People with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to suffer severely or die from MERS.
As its name would suggest, all known cases of the virus so far have been linked to the Arabian Peninsula. Globally, 1,350 people have been infected, and 488 have died, according to Coronamap.com. Saudi Arabia has the highest number of cases, followed by South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar.