- Associated Press - Monday, October 1, 2012

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (AP) - Saudi Arabia’s health minister says a new respiratory virus related to SARS that has infected two people does not pose a threat to the more than 1 million Muslims set to embark on the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the kingdom.

Abdullah al-Rabeeah said Monday the virus has so far been contained.

The germ is a coronavirus, from a family of viruses that cause the common cold as well as SARS, the severe acute respiratory syndrome that killed some 800 people, mostly in Asia, in a 2003 epidemic.

Global health officials suspect two victims from the Middle East may have caught it from animals.

The World Health Organization issued a global alert asking doctors to be on guard for any potential cases of the new virus, which also causes kidney failure.

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