Saudi Arabia has confirmed four new cases of the SARS-like coronavirus in its Eastern Province, state media has reported, citing the health ministry.

The health ministry said that one of the four new cases had been treated and the patient had been released from hospital, while the three other new cases were still being treated, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.  

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia said it had a total of 24 confirmed cases since the disease was identified last year, of whom 15 had died.

World Health Organisation officials visiting Saudi Arabia to consult with the authorities on the outbreak said on Sunday it
seemed likely the new virus could be passed between humans, but only after prolonged, close contact.

The new virus (nCov) can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia. A virus from the same family triggered the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that swept the world after emerging in Asia and killed 775 people in 2003.

French authorities announced on Sunday that a second man had been diagnosed with the disease after sharing a hospital room with France's only other sufferer, who had recently travelled in the Middle East.

Source: Agencies