Coronavirus respiratory illness in Saudi Arabia
Although viruses that belong to the coronavirus family are known since the 1930s, they only gained public health attention when they were discovered to be the causative agent of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in China in 2002–2003. On 22 September 2012, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Saudi Arabia announced the detection of what was described as a “rare pattern” of coronavirus respiratory infection in three individuals, two Saudi citizens and one person from the Gulf Region. Neither Saudi citizen survived the infection. Molecular analysis of the isolates showed that the virus belongs to the genus beta-coronavirus. It is not known if the new isolates are circulating in the population or has recently diverged. The emergence of these novel isolates that resulted in fatal human infection ascertains that health authorities all over the world must be vigilant for the possibility of new global pandemics due to novel viral infection.
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