Iran reports its first death from MERS virus

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has suffered its first fatality from the Middle Eastern respiratory virus, its official news agency reported Thursday, a day after the first cases in Islamic Republic were publicized.

The IRNA news agency quoted Health Ministry official Mohammad Mahdi Gouya as saying the virus killed a 53-year-old woman in Kerman, a city in southeastern Iran. On Wednesday, the daily newspaper Hamshahri quoted Gouya as saying two sisters in Kerman contracted the virus.

“The women’s immune system had with the disease due to chronic illness. (They were) unable to fight the virus.” Gouya told IRNA.

It remains unclear how the two women became infected with MERS and authorities have given no further details.

MERS is part of the coronavirus family of viruses, which includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. MERS can cause symptoms including fever, breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure.

The virus, first reported in Saudi Arabia, has seen cases spread across the world since its discovery two years ago. The World Health Organization said Wednesday that it had documented 636 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS worldwide, including 193 deaths.

On Thursday, Gouya told IRNA that measures have been taken to provide information to pilgrims who visit Saudi Arabia for pilgrimages to the Islamic holy city of Mecca.