Algeria reports first MERS fatality

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A 66-year-old Algerian man has died from a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus infection, the first such fatality in the North African country, according to Algeria’s Health Ministry.

The ministry issued a statement on Tuesday after the man died late Monday at a hospital in western Algeria, where he had been receiving treatment since the confirmation of his infection late last month.

He was among the first two individuals detected as being infected with MERS after returning from a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

The second confirmed case, a 59-year-old man, is still being treated in a hospital while his health condition has reportedly improved, the Health Ministry statement further said.

MERS was discovered in September 2012 in a Qatari man who had traveled to Saudi Arabia. The virus, which causes coughing, fever and pneumonia, does not appear to be as contagious as its cousin SARS, which killed some 800 people in a 2003 epidemic.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the spread of the disease has become more serious, but does not yet constitute a global health emergency.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, which is worst hit by the virus, MERS infections have been reported in a number of other countries including France, Germany, Italy, Britain, the United States, and more recently Iran.

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