Officials in Saudi Arabia said late Wednesday they have identified 18 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the country, Reuters reports. The government also said four more people died of the disease Wednesday.
The new cases raise Saudi Arabia's official number of MERS cases to 449, making it the country hardest hit by the deadly virus, which kills about a third of the people it infects. 121 people have died from the virus in Saudi Arabia, where the number of infections has surged since April amid outbreaks in hospitals in Jeddah and Riyadh.
MERS, a form of coronavirus similar to SARS, causes coughing, fever and pneumonia. It was first identified two years ago. Researchers have been largely stumped by the origin and transmission patterns of the virus, which some scientists have linked to bats and, increasingly, camels.
A case of the virus was confirmed in the United States for the first time earlier this month. Other cases have been reported in more than a dozen other countries, including Britain, France and Jordan.