A new, SARS-like virus has claimed its sixth victim. A patient being treated for the virus at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England died Tues. Feb. 19, according to a hospital spokesperson. Twelve cases of the virus have been confirmed worldwide.
The new virus is classified as a coronavirus, the same virus responsible for the common cold and SARS. It was first identified in the Middle East in 2012. Most of the original cases were in people who lived in or had visited Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Pakistan. The latest victim in Great Britain had not visited the Middle East; it is believed he caught the virus from a relative. There have been four confirmed cases in Great Britain.
Experts are unsure how the virus is spread. The new coronavirus is closely related to a virus found in bats, and scientists are speculating that the virus may spread by bats, or possibly by other animals such as goats or camels.
The World Health Organization (WHO), at www.who.int, said it appears the virus can spread between people under the right circumstances. During the original outbreak in 2012, four members of a Saudi Arabia family became infected, and two died. A cluster of cases also occurred in a hospital in Jordan, possibly originating in the hospital’s intensive care unit. Britain’s Health Protection Agency has said they consider the risk of infection from person-to-person to be low. The most recent victim was also being treated for a long-term unrelated health condition and had a compromised immune system, according to www.nbcnews.com.
WHO recommends testing for the novel coronavirus in any cases of unexplained pneumonia or prolonged respiratory infections. The organization is not recommending any travel or trade restrictions at this time. No special screening has been instituted although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that travelers to the Arab peninsula monitor their health and see a doctor right away if they develop symptoms of a respiratory infection. Health officials in the U.S. have expressed concern that the virus could be brought into the United States with military troops returning from tours of duty in the Middle East.