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New deadly SARS-like virus has potential to transfer from human to human

Published time: February 13, 2013 18:49
Edited time: February 14, 2013 02:57
AFP Photo / Frederic J. Brown

AFP Photo / Frederic J. Brown

British health officials warn a new deadly virus, similar to SARS, could spread from person to person. WHO officials are encouraging countries to be on the lookout for the new illness, as its origins remain unclear.

A new coronavirus is causing concern for the World Health Organization and medics everywhere over its ability to spread from person to person, as an eleventh case of the disease seems to prove.Out of these cases, five have resulted in death.

The virus has been registered in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and initially was thought to spread from animals, such as bats, to humans.

But the latest patient with no history of travelling in the Middle East has been diagnosed with the virus.

The patient is a relative of another registered case, who has recently beenin the Middle East and Pakistan.

However, doctors say it’s premature to worry about the new virus, as there’s still a “very low” risk of infection, according to AP.

The Guardian newspaper quotes Professor John Watson, head of respiratory diseases at the Health Protection Agency, as saying: “evidence of person-to-person transmission has been limited. Although this case provides strong evidence for person-to-person transmission, the risk of infection in most circumstances is still considered to be very low.”

The World Health Organization reported on the cases – two people from the same family – in Saudi Arabia in November 2012, but failed to establish whether the illness was transported from one family member to another. The first case of the illness, resulting in fatality, was registered in September of last year.

Yet, say WHO officials, if the virus was easily transferrable, there would have been a lot more than 11 cases.

The new illness is said to be from the coronavirus family – the same group to which the deadly SARS belongs.

The virus, yet unnamed, causes pneumonia and sometimes kidney failure, say UK health officials.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo, or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under an electron microscope.

The outbreak of SARS in 2002 resulted in the deaths of more than 800 people and spread to more than 30 countries around the world.