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Saudi Arabia Reports 5 More Deaths from SARS-Related Novel Coronavirus

Update Date: May 02, 2013 01:50 PM EDT

Saudi Arabia reports that five people have just died of the novel coronavirus that was first discovered in 2012. The government also says that two people are seriously ill from the condition.

According to Reuters, the seven most recent cases in Saudi Arabia all occurred in the oil-rich al-Ahsa region of the Eastern province.

Al Jazeera reports that the health ministry says that it is using "all precautionary measures for persons who have been in contact with the infected people...and has taken samples from them to examine if they are infected". However, it is not clear how many people have been contacted for samples, or what the results of those tests are.

The World Health Organization says that it will provide more information later today.

According to the BBC, the new coronavirus has been detected in cases in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany and the United Kingdom. Riyadh in Saudi Arabia has been hardest hit by the virus, with 11 of the total deaths, including the five most recent ones. In total, 23 people have been infected.

The last death from the coronavirus was in March. A 73-year-old Saudi national had been traveling to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He was transferred to Munich in Germany from Abu Dhabai in the United Arab Emirates. He died in Germany.

The new virus has been shrouded in mystery since it was reportedly discovered late last year. Public health officials are not yet sure about the source of the condition or how it is spread. It is also not yet clear how widespread the virus is, or whether it should be a concern to the wider public. Though many health officials believe that there is minimal risk to the public, the virus has demonstrated signs of spreading between people.

The virus is known as the novel coronavirus or hCoV-EMC. It is in the same family as the common cold and pneumonia. It is also in the same family as severe acute respiratory syndrome, the disease that became a global pandemic in 2003. SARS killed around 800 people.

The novel coronavirus differs from SARS in that it causes rapid kidney failure.

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