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Two more die in Saudi Arabia from SARS-like virus: WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) - Two more people in Saudi Arabia have died from a new strain of coronavirus that has emerged in the Middle East, bringing the toll in the kingdom's latest outbreak to seven, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Six other people are infected, one of them critically ill, in an outbreak centered on a health care facility in Al Ahsa governorate in Eastern Province, WHO spokesman Glenn Thomas said in Geneva.

Worldwide, there have been 30 laboratory-confirmed infections with the new virus, including 18 deaths, since it came to scientists' attention last September, he said.

Other strains of coronavirus can cause common colds but also the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that emerged in Asia in 2003.

There is no evidence yet of sustained human-to-human spread of the new virus, but there are concerns about clusters of cases reported by the WHO in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Britain.

A retrospective study in Jordan found that there had been an outbreak of the new virus there as long ago as April 2012, with two confirmed cases and 11 probable ones, including 10 health care workers, Thomas told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia has reported 23 confirmed cases in total, Qatar two, Jordan two, Britain two and the United Arab Emirates one, according to the WHO.

"WHO does not advise special screening (of travelers) nor does it recommend that any trade or travel restrictions," Thomas said, adding that all states should look out for "any unusual patterns" of infection.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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