Waiting near an operating room
Waiting near an operating room Israel news photo: Flash 90 / archive

The Health Ministry has issued a warning about a potentially new lethal SARS-type virus in Israel. The new strain, a coronavirus, is part of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) strain of viruses.

Medical personnel have been told to be on alert for any symptoms of the illness in cases coming into hospitals in Israel.

Symptoms include fever, cough and other respiratory issues. Suspected cases are to be placed in isolation wards for their own safety and that of everyone around them.

Thus far, only two cases have been confirmed in the region; one person in Saudi Arabia who died, and a Qatari national who traveled to Saudi Arabia and became ill there, but survived. Both are suspected to have caught the illness from animals.

Saudi officials are warning that those who come to Mecca for next month's annual pilgrimage, the Hajj, should take care to wear masks in crowds and maintain clean hands.

World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Glenn Thomas said Friday the virus is “not easily transmitted from person to person, but it is still too early to know exactly how it spreads."

It is also too early to know whether it will morph into a more dangerous form.