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More deaths reported in Saudi Arabia from new coronavirus

Two more deaths from a new form of coronavirus have been reported in Saudi Arabia, the World Health Organization said in a statement Monday.

Last week, Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry had said five people died and two other patients were in critical condition from the SARS-like virus of unknown origin that has been circulating in the Middle East since last year.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to the infection SARS, which killed 800 people during a 2003 global epidemic, mostly in Asia.

The government of Saudi Arabia is conducting an ongoing investigation into this outbreak which is linked to one health care facility, according to WHO. Since the beginning of May 2013, a total of 13 patients have been reported from this outbreak in Saudi Arabia, of which seven have died. Patients ranged in age from 24 to 94 years old.

Since September 2012 when the World Health Organization began tracking the infections, the agency has been informed of 30 confirmed cases. Eighteen of the patients died.

The new coronavirus, which can cause respiratory illness, acute pneumonia and kidney failure, is closely related to a bat virus and scientists have been considering whether bats or other animals like goats or camels brought the infection.

WHO has not recommended any travel restrictions or special screenings at entry ports in Saudi Arabia or the Middle East at this time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has been working with the World Health Organization to understand the public health risks posed by these infections.

The CDC advised travelers to the Middle East to wash their hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if those are not available. Other everyday actions that travelers can take to protect themselves include avoiding close contact with sick people and keeping their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth where germs can spread.

People who develop a severe respiratory illness within 10 days of traveling from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries should see a doctor, the CDC said. Those countries include Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Doctors should contact the CDC if a patient meets the criteria for someone "under investigation" for this new illness.

The CDC has more information on the new coronavirus.