Middle East respiratory syndrome MERS coronavirus
The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus has caused more than 185 deaths. Reuters

A 69-year-old man has become the sixth Jordanian to die after contracting the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.

Jordan's health ministry said the man died five days after he was booked into a local hospital with symptoms of the respiratory syndrome that kills about a third of those it infects.

"The man, who suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, died in hospital," Sultan Kasrawi of the ministry's communicable disease department, told AFP.

Mers was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and is known to have infected about 600 people, killing more than 185.

Most of the cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring counties but the virus has also been identified in UK, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Malaysia, the Philippines and the US.

Earlier this week, the Algerian health ministry said two of its nationals aged 66 and 59 tested positive for the virus upon returning from pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.

Mers belongs to the coronavirus family which includes the common cold and SARS that killed almost 800 people during a pandemic which started in Asia between 2002 and 2003.

Mers is considered to be deadlier but less transmissible than SARS. Typical symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It is not yet understood exactly how people become infected. Some cases of human-to-human transmission have been reported. In some communities, however, people have become ill but no potential source of infection has been found, the WHO said.

Strains of the virus have been found widely in camels and studies have confirmed that the animal is the likely source of the disease.

Researchers are also testing other animal species from which Mers could have crossed over to humans.