Saudi Arabia confirmed on Tuesday four new cases of the SARS-like novel coronavirus in its eastern province, as the death toll from the virus in the country climbs to 15.

The health ministry said one of the four new cases had been treated and the patient had been released from hospital, while the three other new cases were still being treated, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there have been 34 confirmed cases since September 2012.

On Sunday, French authorities said that a second man had been diagnosed with the disease after sharing a hospital room with France's only other sufferer, who had recently traveled to the Middle East.

The new virus (nCov) can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, Reuters news agency reported. A virus from the same family triggered the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that swept the world after emerging in Asia and killed 775 people in 2003.

The new virus raised concerns after it became evident that it can be transmitted from person to person, although it is not very contagious and requires close proximity.

The virus, thought to have originated in bats, can be highly virulent and can potentially cause multi-organ failure.

It is probable that the virus has an animal source, but whether it spreads from contaminated food or something else in the environment remains unknown. Until scientists can establish the route of infection, they can't initiate measures to try to eradicate the virus, the BBC reported.