Saudi health minister sacked as MERS toll rises

April 21, 2014

Saudi Arabia dismissed its health minister on Monday just days after he visited a hospital at the centre of growing concerns about the kingdom's handling of the MERS virus.

Abdullah al-Rabiah was named adviser to King Abdullah and replaced by Labour Minister Adel Fakieh, said a royal decree carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia has registered by far the largest number of infections with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome since the disease's discovery in September 2012.

Of 243 confirmed cases across the planet, 231 have been in Saudi Arabia, according to the World Health Organisation.

Of those, 76 people have died, most recently two foreigners in the commercial capital Jeddah where there have been mounting fears of a potential surge in infections.

Panic over the spread of the virus among medical staff in Jeddah triggered the temporary closure of a in the city earlier this month.

The now fired minister visited the facility last week in a bid to reassure the public but on Wednesday at least four doctors at the King Fahd Hospital reportedly resigned after refusing to treat MERS patients.

MERS was initially concentrated in eastern Saudi Arabia but it now affects other areas.

The virus 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.

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

A recent study said the virus has been "extraordinarily common" in camels for at least 20 years, and may have been passed directly from the animals to humans.

Explore further: Two expats die of MERS in Saudi commercial hub

Related Stories

Two expats die of MERS in Saudi commercial hub

April 20, 2014

Two foreigners died of MERS in the Saudi city of Jeddah, the health ministry said Saturday, as fears rise over the spreading respiratory virus in the kingdom's commercial hub.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

April 18, 2014

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi, 8 infected

April 13, 2014

A foreigner has died from MERS while eight people including five health workers have been infected in the Saudi city of Jeddah, where the spread of the coronavirus among medics has sparked panic.

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

April 20, 2014

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi Arabia (Update)

April 14, 2014

A foreigner has died from MERS in the western Saudi city of Jeddah, where authorities have sought to calm fears over the spreading respiratory illness, the health ministry said Monday.

Recommended for you

Zika virus infection alters human and viral RNA

October 20, 2016

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that Zika virus infection leads to modifications of both viral and human genetic material. These modifications—chemical tags known as ...

Food-poisoning bacteria may be behind Crohn's disease

October 19, 2016

People who retain a particular bacterium in their gut after a bout of food poisoning may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease later in life, according to a new study led by researchers at McMaster University.

Neurodevelopmental model of Zika may provide rapid answers

October 19, 2016

A newly published study from researchers working in collaboration with the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia demonstrates fetal death and brain damage in early chick embryos similar to microcephaly—a ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.