Colds and flu

12 February 2013

New Sars-like virus infects British patient

A new virus from the same family as Sars that sparked a global alert last September has been found in a further patient in Britain, health officials said on Monday.

A new virus from the same family as Sars that sparked a global alert last September has been found in a further patient in Britain, health officials said on Monday.

This latest case of infection with the new virus known as a coronavirus brings the total number of confirmed cases globally to 10, of which five have died.The British patient, who had recently traveled to the Middle East and Pakistan, is receiving intensive care treatment in hospital in Manchester, northern England.

Symptoms of Sars in new virus

The new virus shares some of the symptoms of Sars, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - a coronavirus that emerged in China in 2002 and killed about a tenth of the 8 000 people it infected worldwide. The symptoms include severe respiratory illness, fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.

The virus was identified when the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued an international alert in September 2012 saying a virus previously unknown in humans had infected a Qatari man who had recently been in Saudi Arabia. Britain's Health Protection Agency (HPA) said among the 10 laboratory confirmed cases to date, five had been in Saudi Arabia, with three deaths; two were in Jordan, where both patients died; two were in Britain, where both are receiving treatment; and one was in Germany in a patient from Qatar who had since been discharged from medical care.

Importance of healthcare staff

The agency said in a statement on Monday it was providing advice to ensure the latest British patient was treated appropriately and healthcare staff were protected. People who have had contact with the patient are also being tracked to check on their health.

"Our assessment is that the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains extremely low and the risk to travelers to the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding countries remains very low," the HPA said. Coronaviruses are typically spread like other respiratory infections, such as flu, traveling in airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.The WHO said in September that from its initial investigations, it appeared this virus did not spread easily from person to person.


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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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