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Lebanon records its first case of potentially fatal Middle East respiratory virus

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BEIRUT - Lebanon has recorded its first case of the often-fatal Middle East respiratory virus, the Health Ministry said Friday.

The virus was detected Thursday in a man who had checked into a local hospital after feeling ill, the ministry said. It said the case was not severe, and the man has since been discharged.

A ministry official said the patient had recently returned from a visit to several Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has been the focal point of the outbreak of the virus, known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

MERS belongs to a family of viruses that include both the common cold and SARS, which killed some 800 people in a global outbreak in 2003. It can cause symptoms that include fever, breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure.

Not everyone who contracts the virus that causes MERS gets sick, while others show only mild symptoms. There is no cure or vaccine.

Still, the threat from the virus has prompted health officials around the region to adopt protective measures to try to prevent the spread of the disease.

In Lebanon, the health minister on Thursday ordered that thermal cameras be set up at Beirut's international airport to check arriving passengers for possible signs of fever, indicating a possible MERS infection.

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