MERS spreads to Italy, three cases reported

This undated image released by the British Health Protection Agency shows an electron microscope image of a coronavirus, part of a family of viruses that cause ailments including the common cold and SARS, which was first identified last year in the Middle East. British officials say a mysterious virus related to SARS may have spread between humans, as they confirmed the 11th case worldwide of the new coronavirus in a patient who they say probably caught it from a family member. Officials at the World Health Organization said the new virus has probably already spread between humans in some instances. (AP Photo/Health Protection Agency) AP

ROMEThree people were being treated Saturday for a new respiratory virus, MERS, that is alarming global health officials, in the first cases in Italy, the country's health ministry said.

A 45-year-old man who had recently returned from a 40-day visit to Jordan was hospitalized in Tuscany with a high fever, cough and respiratory problems, the ministry said. Tuscan regional officials say that a young child who is related to the man and a work colleague also have the virus, the ministry said.

All three patients were reported to be in good condition and were being treated in isolation.

The virus is a coronavirus and is related to SARS, which killed about 800 people in a global epidemic in 2003. The U.N. health agency said Sunday that it had been informed of 53 confirmed cases of the new virus since September.

Thirty of those cases were fatal, including that of a Frenchman who died earlier in the week. Cases in Britain and Germany also have been reported.

Most of those infected had traveled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Pakistan.

Also on Sunday, Saudi Arabia reported that three more people have died from a new disease, bringing the total number of deaths in the kingdom to 24.

The Ministry of Health said Sunday the three deceased were among 38 infected in the kingdom with MERS. It says two of the three whose deaths were reported Sunday were suffering from chronic diseases.

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