Remember the SARS virus; â€˜severe acute respiratory syndromeâ€™, back in 2002? It was definitely the health scare of that year, when it killed 800 people.
Well now a new virus of the same family, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) bulletin. The new virus case has been identified as infecting a man from Qatar who had travelled in Saudi Arabia within weeks of contracting the condition. The WHO bulletin issued under the United Nations â€˜Global Alert and Responseâ€™ system reported that they found a confirmed presence of a â€˜newâ€™ or novel coronavirus in a Qatari man aged 49.
The UK virologists who made the discovery compared the genetic codes of the Qatari manâ€™s infection with preserved samples from an earlier case of SARS, still this year though. This sample was preserved and sequenced by Dutch researchers at the time. It was taken from the lung tissue of a 60-year-old Saudi male who died because of the virus. The virus DNA was identical in both cases.
WHO Bulletin for Coronavirus
Coronaviruses are a very big class of viruses most of them are relatively harmless but they include the common cold as well as SARS. Because this is a new form of coronavirus the WHO is at present in the throes of gathering all the data they can so that they can determine the full global public health implications of this case. Meanwhile the UK experts who identified the virus say the symptoms of the condition are high temperatures, coughing and other respiratory abnormalities.
The Qatari man who died had been evacuated to the UK for treatment and was treated in â€˜strict respiratory isolationâ€™. The medic attending him all wore full protective clothing to prevent cross infection. Nobody wants to risk a repeat of the â€˜02 outbreak when SARS broke out in China.
The director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College in London is saying that at this point in time they are watchful as always but not unduly concerned. The only reason they identified the novel virus was because of the sophistication of their testing techniques. Also the fact that the two cases that have been discovered so far would seem to be entirely unrelated leads to the thought â€œthat what has been picked up is just some rare event that in past times might have been undiagnosed.”
Another SARS-like Threat Looming?
However, “Any evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission or of contact would be more worrying, raising the worry that another SARS-like agent could be emerging.”
Currently the WHO is not advocating any travel restrictions, but they are in detailed communication with the London medics, looking for more information about the new virus. The dead man first reported his illness to doctors in Qatar on September third, when he was suffering severe respiratory infection. Four days later he was admitted to an intense care unit in Doha and another four days later he was transferred to London by air ambulance.
The UK Health Protection Agency, HPA, did the testing and identification of the novel coronavirus. A HPA press release says:
Â “…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 has 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 on-going 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.”