Deadly virus’s spread raises alarms in mideast, now spread to Malaysia, Philippines

Saudi Arabia on Sunday confirmed a surge of cases of a deadly virus in the kingdom over the past two weeks, even as it tried to counter criticism that it wasn’t doing enough to contain the outbreak.

The United Arab Emirates over the weekend separately announced six confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, among paramedics there, one of whom died of the illness. The high number of cases among medical workers raised questions about how effective Arab Gulf governments have been in controlling the 1½-year-old outbreak.

“I’m not pretty sure that they are actually seeing how big this thing is,” a Saudi doctor said on Sunday at King Fahd General Hospital, the large public hospital in Jeddah that has been hardest hit by a spike in the city this month…

Filipino medical officers observe arrivals from United Arab Emirates as they pass through a thermal scanner.

Related: A deadly viral disease from the Middle East has claimed its first victims in Southeast Asia, killing a Malaysian man who returned from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

The WHO confirmed a second case in the same region, a nurse in the Philippines who returned home from the Gulf.

The cases touch on some of the biggest worries among health experts since they discovered Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS.

Infectious diseases specialists have feared the disease could spread far afield via the millions of pilgrims who come to the Saudi holy city of Mecca each year for the Muslim pilgrimage.

From there, the concern was it would reach crowded Asian or African countries with little capacity to control any outbreak.

“The concern is that the Saudi health authority has not yet been able to curtail this epidemic, to close it down,” said William Schaffner, an expert in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University…

Hospital worker in Jeddah (file photo)

Related: A foreign woman has died after she contracted MERS in Riyadh, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73. The 55-year-old woman, whose nationality was not disclosed, was suffering from chronic illnesses, the Health Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The ministry said five other people living in Riyadh were infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, two of them foreigners. Late on Thursday, the ministry reported the death of a 70-year-old Saudi woman in Jeddah where the virus has spread in recent weeks…

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The first two links are from WSJ. If you unable to access them, you can read them here. The last link is from al-Arabiya, with no reader restrictions.  The 55-year-old woman is presumably the Filipino nurse referred to by WSJ.