Panic has gripped the people of Saudi Arabia, especially in the Eastern Province where most cases of the deadly coronavirus have been detected. The death toll from the Sars-like virus in the kingdom has now hit 15.
A large number of people have reported to the emergency services at hospitals in the city of Al Ahsa in Eastern Province after showing even the slightest signs of a fever, gulfnews reported.
“I felt the symptoms of a cold, accompanied by a fever,” an unnamed young man told AFP by telephone on Monday from one hospital where he was admitted and placed in quarantine.
He added that he came to the hospital and his symptoms disappeared by the end of the day, but was still kept in a quarantine with other patients.
Saudi authorities said that anyone showing possible symptoms of the virus after being admitted to hospitals in Al Ahsa region had been placed in isolation.
15 of the 24 people who have contracted the coronavirus in Saudi Arabia since August have died, Health Minister Abdullah Al Rabia said on Sunday.
13 cases in total have been detected in the King Fahd hospital, in Al Ahsa. Among those was a 9-year-old girl who died a few hours after arriving at hospital with a strong fever.
Another fatality was Haidar Ghanem, a disabled 21-year-old man who had a “strong fever” for a week, according to his father Mokhtar. He died last Thursday, 4 days after being admitted to the hospital after falling unconscious.
The minister said last Sunday that 3 new suspected cases had been identified. In all, 34 cases have been reported worldwide since the virus was first detected in September 2012, with 18 of the victims dying, according to the World Heath Organization.
While the virus has been deadliest in Saudi Arabia, cases have also been reported in Jordan, Germany, Britain and France where two patients are now in hospital in the northern city of Lille.
The virus is a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which triggered a scare 10 years ago when it erupted in east Asia, leaping to humans from animal hosts and eventually killing some eight hundred people.
Keiji Fakuda, WHO’s Assistant Director general for health security and environment, told a Riyadh news conference on Sunday that the new virus posed an “important and major challenge” for countries affected and for the world generally.
He said experts were still struggling to understand all aspects of the virus and how humans become infected, stressing, however, that “this new virus is not the Sars virus.”
Fukuda added that this is a new infection and there are also many gaps in their knowledge that will inevitably take time to fill in.