Health experts in the UK are working to identify a new SARS-like virus that has put one man in the intensive care unit of a London hospital.
The Health Protection Agency issued a statement Sunday confirming that a a patient who recently arrived in the UK from "the Middle East" is being treated in a London hospital for what has been diagnosed as a "severe respiratory illness associated with a new type of coronavirus."
This virus is different from the SARS virus that caused as many as 800 deaths in 2003. According to the statement "Coronaviruses are causes of the common cold but can also include more severe illness, such as the virus responsible for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). This new virus, however, is different from any that have previously been identified in humans. Preliminary enquiries have revealed no evidence of illness in contacts of these two cases, including healthcare workers. Based on what we know about other coronaviruses, many of these contacts will already have passed the period when they could have caught the virus from the infected person"
The statement quotes Professor John Watson, HPA's head of the respiratory diseases department, as saying: "The HPA is providing advice to healthcare workers to ensure the patient under investigation is being treated appropriately.
"In the light of the severity of the illness that has been identified in the two confirmed cases, immediate steps have been taken to ensure that people who have been in contact with the UK case have not been infected, and there is no evidence to suggest that they have.
The BBC is reporting the second known case of the SARS-like virus was a patient in Saudi Arabia who died from the disease.
A statement released by the World Health Organization says the UK case involves a previously healthy, 49 year-old man from Qatari. He had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia before becoming ill. He sought treatment for his symptoms on September 3, 2012 and on September 7th he was admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) in Doha, Qatar. The was then transfered to the UK by "air ambulance" on September 11th.
According to PubMed Health SARS "is a serious form of pneumonia. It is caused by a virus that was first identified in 2003. Infection with the SARS virus causes acute respiratory distress (severe breathing difficulty) and sometimes death."
Peter Openshaw, director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London, told Reuters"Any evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission or of contact would be more worrying, raising the worry that another SARS-like agent could be emerging."
The Center for Disease Control, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has issued no statements at this time regarding this SARS-like virus.