NEW YORK (AP) — A deadly new respiratory virus related to SARS has apparently spread from patients to health care workers in eastern Saudi Arabia, health officials said Wednesday.
The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia told world health officials that two health care workers became ill this month after being exposed to patients with the virus. One is critically ill.
Since September 2012, the World Health Organization has been informed of 40 confirmed cases of the virus, and 20 of the patients have died. The deaths occurred in in France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United Kingdom.
Experts have suggested calling the new virus MERS, for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, but officials have not signed off on that yet.
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Experts are watching carefully for signs that the deadly virus can spread from person-to-person. Health officials say the virus has likely already spread between people in some circumstances, including hospital patients in France. But the confirmed spread to nurses or other health care workers is new.
The new virus has caused severe respiratory disease in patients, some of them needing mechanical ventilators to help them breathe.
One of the Saudi health care workers is a 45-year-old man who is in critical condition. The other is a 43-year-old woman in stable condition. No other details about their jobs or where they work were released.