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article imageNew SARS-like coronavirus found in second UK patient

By JohnThomas Didymus     Feb 12, 2013 in Health
Manchester - UK health officials said Monday that a new virus from the same family as SARS that sparked a global alert last September has been found in another patient in Britain. Heath officials say it is the second case of the new respiratory illness in the UK.
With the latest case from Britain, the new coronavirus has been identified in 10 people worldwide. The latest case raises concerns about whether the virus which causes a pneumonia-like illness with acute breathing problems and kidney failure, will spread like the 2003 SARS virus.
About 800 people died worldwide in the 2003 SARS epidemic, about one-tenth of the total number of people identified as infected with the virus. The SARS epidemic reportedly spread to more than 30 countries worldwide.
Reuters reports that the new coronavirus was first identified in September 2012 in a Qatari man who had been in Saudi Arabia. The WHO issued an international alert for the virus in September, with the statement that a virus previously unknown in humans had infected a Qatari man who had recently been in Saudi Arabia.
The patient has since died. The BBC reports that soon after the first case, officials identified another case in the UK in a 49-year-old man who had been transferred from a hospital in Qatar to London's St Thomas' hospital.
In a statement released by the British Health Protection Agency, the new patient is receiving treatment in a Manchester hospital. Health officials say he had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The latest case was identified five months after the first. The BBC reports that global death toll from the infection now stands at 5, fifty percent of people identified as infected with the new virus.
Reuters reports that WHO refers to the new virus as a novel coronavirus or NCoV. Coronaviruses are a large family that are involved in illnesses ranging from the common cold to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Medical experts say the illness spreads through droplets of body fluids such as produced during sneezing or coughing.
Health officials say the illness shares symptoms in common with SARS, including acute breathing problems. Symptoms of the illness include severe respiratory illness, fever, coughing, breathing difficulties and kidney failure. According to WHO, the infection in the latest UK patient was confirmed through a series of laboratory tests that showed the patient had contracted both an H1N1 swine flu infection and a confirmed NCoV infection.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in a statement described the latest infection as "sporadic," saying it "does not indicate that the virus is persistent." The organization said that the new case does not change its assessment of the risk that the illness may spread and lead to a general epidemic.
According to the BBC, health officials say the risk of the coronavirus spreading to the general UK population is "extremely low." Officials assure that the situation is being monitored closely.
Reuters reports that "among the 10 laboratory confirmed cases five had been in Saudi Arabia, with three deaths; two were in Jordan, where both patients died; two were in Britain, where both are receiving treatment; and one was in Germany in a patient from Qatar who had since been discharged from medical care."
Prof John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the Health Protection Agency (HPA), said: "The HPA is providing advice to health-care workers to ensure the patient under investigation is being treated appropriately and that health-care staff who are looking after the patient are protected. Contacts of the case are also being followed up to check on their health."
HPA said: "Our assessment is that the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general U.K. population remains extremely low and the risk to travelers to the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding countries remains very low."
The WHO said: "Testing for the new coronavirus of patients with unexplained pneumonias, or patients with severe, progressive or complicated illness not responding to treatment, should be considered — especially in persons residing in or returning from the Arabian peninsula and neighboring countries."
The WHO said in September that initial investigations suggested the virus does not spread easily from person to person. However, experts suspect that humans can be infected through contact with animal carriers, such as camels and bats.
Experts are recommending that countries should run tests on anyone with unexplained pneumonia. The WHO said on Monday that there is no need for countries to impose travel restriction or any special screening at border points.
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