A new virus has been identified in the UK which is said to be worryingly similar to the Sars virus, which was responsible for hundreds of people in 2002 after a global outbreak. Transferred from Qatar to a London hospital by air ambulance, the 49 year old man is the second confirmed case of the respiratory illness.
A patient in Saudi Arabia confirmed as the first case later died.
Health official are yet to determine whether or not the new virus poses any significant threat to the public, though at present there are no travel restriction advisements from the World Health Organization.
Speaking with the BBC in London over the weekend, Professor John Watson of the Health Protection Agency in the UK said “In the light of the severity of the illness that has been identified in the two confirmed cases, immediate steps have been taken to ensure that people who have been in contact with the UK case have not been infected, and there is no evidence to suggest that they have.
“Further information about these cases is being developed for healthcare workers in the UK, as well as advice to help maintain increased vigilance for this virus.”
He went on to add that there is at present no evidence of the virus being able to transmit from person to person, stating that no advice could yet be given for travelers or the public at large.
Other health officials working with the Imperial College London told the media that at present the virus doesn’t appear likely to cause any great concern, having perhaps only been detected due to the use of increasingly sophisticated testing measures.
The new virus belongs to the family known as coronaviruses, which also covers several others including Sars and the common cold. The new strain has not until now been identified in any human beings.
Reports of further deaths resulting from respiratory illness have emerged from the Middle East over recent months, though none have been attributed to the same conditions. One of those affected was a UK citizen whose death is currently being investigated, though at present there have been no links found with the new Sars-like strain and no other case confirmed in Britain.
In 2002, a global outbreak of Sars which originated in Hong Kong was responsible for the deaths of over 800 people spanning 30 countries. While the serious respiratory infection was not eradicated, the spread of the illness was contained in 2003. Like the other illnesses found within the coronaviruses family, Sars was able to spread relatively easily between human beings by coughing, sneezing and close bodily contact.