Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has fired the country's health minister amid a spike in infections of the potentially fatal Middle East respiratory syndrome.

The official Saudi Press Agency reported Monday that Abdullah al-Rabiah was relieved of his post as Health Minister by a royal order. The statement said he is now adviser to the Royal Court.

The royal order says Labor Minister Adel Faqih will temporarily take over the health minister's portfolio until a replacement is named.

No reasons were given for the move, but it comes as the kingdom races to contain the spread of the Middle East virus related to SARS.

The Health Ministry says 79 people have died and more than 240 have been infected by the virus since 2012.