Septagenarian dies of 'SARS-like' virus in Munich: WHO

A 73-year old Saudi man has died in Munich from a lethal new SARS-like virus, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday, making him the 11th victim of the illness since its detection last year.

The patient had been travelling in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia before falling ill, and was transferred to Munich from Abu Dhabi on March 19, the WHO said.

Known as novel coronavirus or hCoV-EMC, the virus was first detected in mid-2012 and is a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which triggered a scare 10 years ago when it erupted in Southeast Asia, leaping to humans from an animal host.

Coronaviruses cause most common colds and pneumonia, but are also to blame for unusual conditions such as SARS which killed more than 800 people when it swept out of China in 2003.

The new virus however is different from SARS, especially in that it causes rapid kidney failure.

However the new strain is shrouded in mystery, and the WHO does not yet know how it is transmitted or how widespread it is.

To date, 17 people have been infected and 11 have died from cases detected in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany and Britain. In the latter country, it affected a family, one of the members of which had visited the Middle East and Pakistan.

On Tuesday the WHO reiterated calls for vigilance in cases of severe acute respiratory infections.