Oman records first death from Mers: Health Ministry

MUSCAT (AFP) - An Omani man has died after contracting Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), becoming the first recorded fatality from the coronavirus in the Gulf sultanate, the health authorities announced on Sunday.

The 68-year-old was "suffering from several chronic illnesses including diabetes, blood pressure, and heart failure", the Health Ministry said in a statement.

"The main cause of death was failure in lung function," it said.

The health authorities announced the man's infection by Mers on Oct 30.

It was the only Mers case reported in Oman so far.

The man was receiving treatment at a hospital in Nazwa, 150km west of Muscat.

The ministry said that tests carried out for all those who had contacted the victim had given negative results.

The Health authorities in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf nation where the virus first appeared in Sept 2012, announced on Sunday a new death by Mers, bringing to 53 the number of fatalities in the kingdom by the coronavirus.

Mers has so far cost 64 lives worldwide, according to a Nov 4 update by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Experts are struggling to understand the disease, for which there is no vaccine.

It is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, 9 per cent of whom died.

Like Sars, Mers appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering from a temperature, cough and breathing difficulty.

But it differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure and the extremely high death rate has caused serious concern.

In August, researchers pointed to Arabian camels as possible hosts of the virus.