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Killer MERS coronavirus found in Spain
MERS coronavirusconsidered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus . Photo: HO/British Health Protection/AFP

Killer MERS coronavirus found in Spain

Published: 07 Nov 2013 09:58 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Nov 2013 09:58 GMT+01:00

Spain said on Wednesday that a woman who just returned from Saudi Arabia has been infected by the MERS coronavirus in the country's first case of the deadly disease.

The patient, who was born in Morocco but lives in Spain, is receiving treatment at a Madrid hospital and is in a "stable" condition, the health ministry said in a statement.

She had spent October in Saudi Arabia, where the disease first appeared in September 2012, it added.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has so far claimed 64 lives worldwide, with the greatest number of deaths in Saudi Arabia, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO said Monday there were a total of 150 laboratory-confirmed cases of the respiratory disease worldwide.

The disease has so far been detected in only four other European nations -- Britain, Germany, France and Italy -- always among people who had recently travelled to the Middle East.

Experts are struggling to understand MERS, for which there is no vaccine.

It is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.

Like SARS, MERS appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering from a temperature, cough and breathing difficulty.

But it differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure and the extremely high death rate has caused serious concern.

In August, researchers pointed to Arabian camels as possible hosts of the virus.

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