The World Health Organization is prepared to tackle a new challenge thrown up after a new virus related to the deadly SARS had infected a 49-year-old Qatari from a recent trip to Saudi Arabia where another man with an almost identical virus had died.
The UN agency is urging health workers around the world to report any patient with acute respiratory infection who may have been exposed to the new virus. Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia has taken safety measures to prevent disease spreading among more than 2 million Muslim pilgrims expected to gather next month in Mecca and Medina.
The new virus described as a coronavirus also causes the deadly SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
"We've got things in place should things change, should the behavior of the virus change," spokesman Gregory Hartl said of the new virus. “This is not SARS, it will not become SARS, it is not SARS-like.”
SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003, spreading to several countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. It infected about 8000 people and killed nearly 800 of them before the respiratory illness was contained.