News / Health

New SARS-like Virus Shows Person-to-Person Transmission

Electron microscope image of a coronavirus, part of a family of viruses that cause ailments including the common cold and SARS (undated)
Electron microscope image of a coronavirus, part of a family of viruses that cause ailments including the common cold and SARS (undated)
Reuters
A third patient in Britain has contracted a new SARS-like virus, becoming the second confirmed British case in a week and showing the deadly infection is being spread from person to person, health officials said on Wednesday.

The latest case, in a man from the same family as another patient, brings the worldwide number of confirmed infections with the new virus - known as novel coronavirus, or NCoV - to 11.

Of those, five have died. Most of the infected lived or had recently been in the Middle East. Three have been diagnosed in Britain.

NCoV was identified when the World Health Organization (WHO)issued an international alert in September 2012 saying a virus previously unknown in humans had infected a Qatari man who had recently been in Saudi Arabia.

The virus belongs to the same family as SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - a coronavirus that emerged in China in 2002 and killed about a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide. Symptoms common to both viruses include severe respiratory illness, fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.

Britain's Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the latest patient, who is a UK resident and does not have any recent travel history, is in intensive care at a hospital in central England.

"Confirmed novel coronavirus infection in a person without travel history to the Middle East suggests that person-to-person transmission has occurred, and that it occurred in the UK," said John Watson, the HPA's head of respiratory diseases.

He said the new case was a family member in close contact with another British case confirmed on Monday and who may have been at greater risk because of underlying health conditions.

The WHO said although this latest case shows evidence of person-to-person transmission, it still believes "the risk of sustained person-to-person transmission appears to be very low".

RISK VERY LOW, BUT VIRUSES CAN MUTATE

Coronaviruses are typically spread like other respiratory infections such as flu, travelling in airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Yet since NCoV was identified in September, evidence of person-to-person transmission has been limited.

Watson said the fact it probably had taken place in the latest two cases in Britain gave no reason for increased alarm.

"If novel coronavirus were more infectious, we would have expected to have seen a larger number of cases than we have seen since the first case was reported three months ago."

Tom Wilkinson, a senior lecturer in respiratory medicine at Britain's University of Southampton, said that if NCoV turned out to be like the previous SARS outbreak, it may prove quite slow to spread from one human to another.

"But it's early days to make any definite statements because viruses can change and mutate very rapidly, so what is right today may be wrong tomorrow," he said.

Based on the current situation, the WHO said all member states should continue surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and investigate any unusual patterns.

"Testing for the new coronavirus should be considered in patients with unexplained pneumonias, or in patients with unexplained severe, progressive or complicated respiratory illness not responding to treatment," it said in a statement.

The WHO said on Monday that the confirmation of a new British case did not alter its risk assessment but ''does indicate that the virus is persistent".

The British patient confirmed on Monday had recently travelled to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and is in intensive care in a separate British hospital, the HPA said.

Among the 11 laboratory confirmed cases to date, five are in Saudi Arabia, with three deaths; two are in Jordan, where both patients died; three are in Britain, where all three are receiving treatment; and one was in Germany in a patient from Qatar who had since been discharged from medical care.

The WHO said at this stage there is no need for travel or trade restrictions, or for special screening at border points.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid