Saudi Arabia said an 81-year-old man had died of the SARS-like coronavirus MERS, and six new cases have been registered, as international experts gather in Cairo to discuss the epidemic.

Experts, including from the World Health Organisation, are nearing the end of a four-day meeting on the disease that has now infected 55 people in Saudi Arabia, killing 33 of them.

Added to previous WHO numbers, the new Saudi announcement brings the total number of confirmed cases to 70 worldwide, of which 39 have died.

There have also been cases in Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Next month, large numbers of Muslim pilgrims are expected to travel to the Saudi city of Mecca, the birthplace of Islam, during  Ramadan. In October millions are expected there for the annual Hajj.

New cases

On Friday, the Saudi Health Ministry said a 41-year-old woman in Riyadh was in a stable condition with the disease, and that a 32-year-old with cancer was also being treated.

It said another person, whose infection was previously announced, had died.

On Thursday, it confirmed four new cases, including three health workers, who have all recovered.

Researchers said Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, is even more deadly than SARS and is easily transmitted in healthcare environments.

The disease can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia and has spread from the Gulf to France, Germany, Italy and Britain.

Source: Reuters