New Sars-like virus emerges in the Middle East
A new respiratory virus is believed to have killed at least one person in Saudi Arabia and left a 49-year old British who was living from Qatar in a critical condition. The man was transferred to London after suffering kidney failure.
The coronavirus is similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic virus that in 2003 killed almost 800 people across the Asian continent.
British officials have alerted the World Health Organisation of the virus, but no travel restrictions have been issued yet.
The situation raised concern ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage which brings together millions of Saudi Arabians from around the world.
WHO Spokesman, Gregory Hartl, said that it is still too early to determine the source of the infection, and that two sporadic cases did not make it clear whether the virus will spread as rapidly as SARS did.
“All possible avenues of infections are being explored,” he said.
Head of the Respiratory Diseases Department of the UK Health Protection Agency, Prof. John Watson, said that steps have been taken to ensure that people who were in contact with the Qatari victim have not been infected.
He also divulged that information about the virus is being developed to be handed out to workers in the UK.
The Director of the Centre of Respiratory Infection at Imperial College, London, Peter Openshaw, told Reuters that the virus is unlikely to be a concern.
Flu expert at the University of Minnesota, Michael Osterholm, said it was important to analyse the ratio of severe to mild cases.