A patient infected with a new form of the coronavirus has died in Britain, hospital officials said Tuesday, bringing the total number of people killed by the Sars-like virus that emerged last year to six.
Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham said the patient was believed to have contracted the virus from an infected relative who recently travelled to the Middle East and is presently undergoing treatment in Manchester.
The patient died Sunday in the hospital's critical care unit and was suffering from a weakened immune system, which the hospital said made him more vulnerable to the virus.
Twelve cases of the virus around the world
Twelve cases - six fatal - of the new coronavirus have been confirmed around the world.
Britain's Health Protection Agency (HPA) said that four cases of the virus have been confirmed in the country. Three patients are members of the same family; the fourth is a Qatari man receiving treatment in Britain.
Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, called the threat of contagion "very low."
"If novel coronavirus were more infectious, we would have expected to have seen a larger number of cases than we have seen since the first case was reported three months ago," he said.
Sars virus includes common cold viruses
The large coronavirus family includes common cold viruses as well as the severe acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) that caused a pandemic 10 years ago.
The new type of coronavirus was first found in a Qatari man last year. He remains in hospital in Britain after being flown from Doha in September.
The virus can cause pneumonia and kidney failure.
In addition to the four patients in Britain, laboratory tests have confirmed five cases in Saudi Arabia, two in Jordan and one in Germany. Most of those infected have links to travel in the Middle East and Pakistan.