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WHO warns that deadly new virus increases

MERS CoV virus

GENEVA, Switzerland, Friday May 31, 2013 – Within weeks of demonstrating that it can be passed between people in close contact and has a mortality rate of more than half of those infected, the novel coronavirus has officially acquired a name, as well as a disturbing reputation.

Middle East respiratory system coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, is "a threat to the entire world," the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) general director warned on Monday.

It "is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself," Margaret Chan said in her closing remarks at the 66th World Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Adding to concerns, Chan noted that health officials do not yet know much about how the virus spreads, which makes it hard for scientists to prevent infections.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread, with the worldwide total now at 49, according to the World Health Organisation.

The organisation further noted that of the 49 known infections with the MERS-CoV virus, 27 have resulted in death.

The latest deaths were reported in Saudi Arabia, with that country’s health ministry saying on Wednesday that three people had died from their infections in the country's eastern region.

While many of the cases have occurred on the Arabian Peninsula, there have also been cases in France, the United Kingdom and Germany.

"All of the European cases have had a direct or indirect connection to the Middle East," the WHO said earlier this month.

But "in France and the United Kingdom, there has been limited local transmission among close contacts who had not been to the Middle East but had been in contact with a traveller recently returned from the Middle East."

A patient died in France on Tuesday after having contracted the virus during a trip to the Middle East, the organisation reported.

Coronaviruses cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, as well as a variety of animal diseases.

The new coronavirus, MERS-CoV, acts like a cold virus and attacks the respiratory system. But symptoms, which include fever and a cough, are severe and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

The World Health Organisation is calling for the world to pull together its resources to study and tackle the virus.