WHO reports first patient to-nurse spread of new SARS-like virus
New SARS-Like Virus Claims Two Victims
World Health Organization reports coronavirus in Middle East, says there is no immediate cause for alarm.
By Brett Spiegel
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MONDAY, Sept. 24 2012 — The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed Sunday that two Middle East residents suffered from a new variant of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS. One of the victims died earlier this year, while the second remains in intensive care after being evacuated from Qatar to London.
A 49-year-old Qatari man was hospitalized and placed in intensive care at the beginning of September for what was thought to be an acute respiratory infection and kidney failure. Days later, he was transferred to the United Kingdom by air ambulance.
Tests revealed that he was suffering from a coronavirus similar to SARS, which was responsible for roughly 800 deaths during a 2002 outbreak. The Qatari victim's virus was found to be virtually identical to the one that killed a 60-year-old Saudi national earlier this year.
Coronaviruses, usually spread through the air, belong to the same family of viruses that cause the common cold, as well as SARS. Scientists aren't yet sure how or where the latest virus developed, or how it has been transmitted.
WHO is currently working to identify and assess what might be the larger public health implications of the new coronavirus. "It's still very early days," said Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman. "At the moment we have two sporadic cases and there are still a lot of holes to be filled in."
The original SARS outbreak infected roughly 8,000 people in more than 30 countries. It was transmitted to humans from civet cats in China.
According to the UK Health Protection Agency, SARS symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties.
There is no immediate cause for concern at this time for the general public, nor have travel restrictions been implemented. WHO has reported that it is too soon to call this an outbreak as no other countries have reported cases.
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