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Saudi Arabian Health Officials Warn Pilgrims of MERS Coronavirus

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MECCA, Saudi Arabia) -- Health officials in Saudi Arabia have issued a warning to pilgrims planning on visiting the country’s holy sites about the risk of spreading Middle East respiratory-syndrome coronavirus, BBC News reports.

MERS coronavirus has already killed 38 people in Saudi Arabia, and officials are asking visiting pilgrims to wear masks in crowded places to avoid spreading it further.

Health officials are also asking the elderly and people with chronic diseases to postpone their pilgrimages, ideally until the outbreak is over. Pilgrims are encouraged to take proper steps to maintain good personal hygiene, and to sneeze or cough into a tissue instead of their hands or into the air.

Millions of Muslim pilgrims come to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj each year.

MERS coronavirus first emerged in the Arabian Peninsula in September 2012. There have been 80 cases of infection, according to the World Health Organization, and 44 confirmed deaths worldwide.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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