Health authorities in Saudi Arabia have reported three more deaths from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), bringing the overall death toll to 163.
Saudi Health Ministry said on Saturday that three women, a 48-year-old in Riyadh, a 67-year- old in Taif and a third one in Jeddah, died a day earlier.
The ministry also said some 520 cases have been recorded in the kingdom since the illness appeared in 2012.
The recent fatalities came only days after the World Health Organization (WHO) said the spread of the disease has become more serious, but does not yet constitute a global health emergency.
The WHO also asked governments to make sure necessary measures were implemented in all healthcare facilities in order to prevent and control the infection.
MERS is a cousin of SARS. The virus first emerged in the Middle East and was discovered in September 2012 in a Qatari man who had traveled to Saudi Arabia.
The virus, which causes coughing, fever and pneumonia, does not appear to be as contagious as SARS, which killed some 800 people in a 2003 epidemic.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, which is worst hit by the virus, MERS has been reported in 16 other countries including the Persian Gulf states, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain.