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No cases of MERS virus among haj pilgrims so far: ministry

Saudi Arabia has so far recorded no cases of the deadly MERS coronavirus among pilgrims in the holy city of Mecca for the annual haj season, the Ministry of Health said on Saturday.

The death toll from the respiratory virus in the kingdom, where the strain emerged last year, has reached 51, and some health officials had feared there could be a large outbreak in a huge congregation of pilgrims from the Muslim world.

"I would like to assure everyone that were no cases of coronavirus recorded in any of the pilgrims' areas," said ministry spokesman Khalid al-Mirghalani said.

The virus, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia.

The annual haj pilgrimage will start on Monday and more than 1.6 million pilgrims so far have made it to Mecca from outside the kingdom.

"We are taking all precautions, we have labs for testing suspected cases and in case someone tests positive we will immediately isolate them to avoid any epidemic," al-Mirghalani added.
 
 

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