After re-examining old data, Saudi Arabia announced a jump of nearly 50% in deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus since 2012. The increase in total confirmed cases of MERS rose from 575 to 688 cases, and the rise in deaths from the virus rose from 190 to 282.

The sharp increase in MERS-related deaths means the mortality rate from the virus in Saudi Arabia is now 41%, instead of the 33% previously thought.

However, the ministry said that although the total number of historical cases had risen, the rate of infection in the most recent outbreak appeared to be slowing. Of the total, 53 patients were still being treated, while 353 had recovered, the statement said.

“While the review has resulted in higher total number of previously unreported cases, we still see a decline in the number of new cases reported over the past few weeks,” Tariq Madani, head of the Health Ministry’s scientific advisory board, was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.

In Geneva, spokesman Glenn Thomas of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it welcomed all efforts to gather, verify and share information on MERS.

Asked about the higher case fatality rate, he said: “The important thing is we are talking still about relatively small numbers in comparison to the population and the number of cases that could be out there.”