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Saudi Arabian man suspected of having Ebola dies

The WHO holds an emergency meeting on Wednesday to decide whether to declare the outbreak of the virus as an international crisis
A boy walks through an empty class room in the Liberian capital of Monrovia after it was closed down to protest students from contracting Ebola (AFP)

A 40-year-old Saudi Arabian man who was being tested for the Ebola virus died of a heart attack in Jeddah on Wednesday, according to the country's Health Ministry.

The man, who had recently returned from a trip to Sierre Leone, had been hospitalised after showing symptoms of a viral hemmorhagic fever, AP reported.

The ministry said it has sent samples to an international lab to test for Ebola on the advice of the World Health Organisation.

If confirmed, this would be the first case of Ebola in the Saudi Arabia after the country put a ban on visas for Muslims from the three West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone wishing to perform the pilgrimage to its Muslim holy sites this April.

Last week, a Liberian man died from the virus two days after arriving in Morocco, Liberia's Minister of Internal Affairs, Morris Dukuly told reporters at a news conference.

On Wednesday, the WHO began a two-day emergency meeting the west African epidemic.

During the closed-door telephone conference, the agency will reportedly decide whether to declare the outbreak an international crisis, a decision that is not expected to be made public until Friday.

To date, the WHO has not issued global-level recommendations - such as travel and trade restrictions - related to the outbreak which began in Guinea and has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

But the scale of concern is underlined by the WHO emergency session itself - such consultations are relatively rare.

The UN agency this year held such meetings on polio and last year on the mysterious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, but before that, the last emergency meeting had been during the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak.

Since breaking out earlier this year, the Ebola epidemic in west Africa has claimed 887 lives and infected more than 1,603 people.