A daily chronicle of ongoing events pertaining to infectious diseases
Monday, September 24, 2012
UN issues global alert over new SARS-like virus
updated1 hour 48 minutes ago
Qatari man is treated for disease almost identical to one that killed Saudi Arabian earlier this year
A new virus belonging to the same family as the SARS virus that killed 800 people in 2002 has been identified in a Qatari man who had recently been in Saudi Arabia, the World Health Organisation said Sunday.
It said the U.K. scientists compared gene sequences of the virus from the Qatari patient with samples of virus sequenced by Dutch scientists from lung tissue of a fatal case earlier this year in a 60-year-old Saudi Arabia national. The two were almost identical, it said.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which includes the common cold and SARS.
"Given that this is a novel coronavirus, WHO is currently in the process of obtaining further information to determine the public health implications," the statement said.
The Qatari patient, who was moved to the U.K. for treatment, was in "strict respiratory isolation" with staff looking after him wearing protective clothing, it added.
SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, appeared in China in 2002 and killed some 800 people globally before being brought under control.
Peter Openshaw, director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London, said at this stage the novel virus looked unlikely to prove a concern, and may well only have been identified due to sophisticated testing techniques.
Astatement on the HPA's websitequoted Professor John Watson, head of its respiratory diseases department, said that "in the light of the severity of the illness ... immediate steps have been taken to ensure that people who have been in contact with the U.K. case have not been infected, and there is no evidence to suggest that they have."
"As we are aware of only two cases worldwide and there is no specific evidence of ongoing transmission, at present there is no specific advice for the public or returning travellers to take but we will share any further advice with the public as soon as more information becomes available," he added.