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New Saudi case takes SARS-like virus death toll to seven

A electron microscope image of a coronavirus is seen in this undated picture provided by the Health Protection Agency in London February 19,
A electron microscope image of a coronavirus is seen in this undated picture provided by the Health Protection Agency in London February 19,

LONDON (Reuters) - A patient admitted to hospital in Saudi Arabia with a new virus from the same family as SARS has died, taking the global death toll from the previously unknown disease to seven.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday the patient died on February 10, two weeks after entering hospital. The cause of death was confirmed by a laboratory test three days ago.

The virus, called novel coronavirus, or NCoV, was unknown in humans until it emerged in the Middle East last year. There have now been 13 confirmed cases worldwide, including in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Britain.

The WHO first issued an international alert in September 2012 after the virus infected a Qatari man in Britain who had recently been in Saudi Arabia.

The Geneva-based agency said it was monitoring the situation closely but it did not believe special screening at airports or other points of entry was necessary, nor did it recommend any travel or trade restrictions.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that includes those causing the common cold as well as the one responsible for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which emerged in China in 2002 and killed around one in 10 of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

Scientists are not sure where the new virus came from but one theory is it came from animals, possibly bats.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Andrew Roche)

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