New SARS-like Virus Infects 12 Globally with British Case

First Posted: Feb 16, 2013 11:00 AM EST

The mysterious, potentially deadly, SARS-like virus that is associated with travelling to the Middle East has now been officially diagnosed in another patient. It is now the third case to appear in Britain this week, and shows that the virus can be transmitted between people.

The virus is what is known as a novel coronavirus, or NCoV. The new patient was part of a cluster of three from the same family that all contracted the virus after one of them travelled to the Middle East. It's the twelfth case that has been diagnosed globally since the virus first appeared in September 2012. At that time the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an international alert to warn health professionals and the public that a previously unknown virus had infected a Qatari man in Britain who had recently been to Saudi Arabia.

The virus is in the same family as SARS, which is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Emerging in China in 2002, SARS causes respiratory illness, fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. When it first appeared, it killed a tenth of the 8,000 people that it infected.

Two of the patients from the family in Britain have been hospitalized in separate locations and are being cared for in isolation. The newest, third case was mild; the patient is recovering well. However, health officials have asked the patient to self-isolate and limit contact with other people. In addition, they are now following up with other household members to make sure that they too did not contract the virus.

Although authorities still aren't how this particular virus is spread, they believe that, like other coronaviruses, it could be spread through the air in droplets that are produced when a person coughs or sneezes. Like the flu, it could be highly contagious.

Considering that this new virus is indeed in the same class as SARS, it's understandable that health officials are taking it so seriously. Five out of the twelve patients infected have died due to the illness.

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