Update on SARS

From Reuters Health:

World Health Organization (WHO) officials reported that a new coronavirus could be passed between humans, but only after prolonged contact. It has killed at least 18 people in the Middle East and Europe.

A virus from the same family killed 775 people in 2003, the year of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome).

On Sunday a second man who had been diagnosed with the disease after sharing a hospital room with France’s only other sufferer was reported by French authorities.

WHO Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda informed reporters in Saudi Arabia, the largest site of infections, there was no evidence so far the virus was able to maintain “generalized transmission in communities” – a scenario that would suggest a pandemic.

But Mr. Fukuda added: “Of most concern … is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries … increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact, this novel coronavirus can transmit from person to person.

“There is a need for countries to … increase levels of awareness,” he said.

A public health expert who did not want to be identified, defined “close contact” as being in the same small, enclosed space with an infected person for an extended period of time.

The virus initially presented in the Gulf last year, but cases have also been reported in Britain and France which included people who had recently traveled to the Middle East.
A total of 34 cases worldwide have been confirmed by blood tests to date.

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry said in a statement the country had had 24 confirmed cases since last summer, of whom 15 had died. Fukuda said he was not sure if the two newly reported Saudi deaths were included in the numbers confirmed by the WHO.

Memish added that three suspected cases in Saudi Arabia were still under investigation, including previous negative results that were being re-examined.

He added in comments broadcast by BFMTV channel the case suggested that airborne transmission of the virus was possible, though still unusual, and that the public “should not be concerned” as there had been only 34 cases globally in a year.

Fukuda, part of a WHO team visiting Saudi Arabia to investigate the spread of the disease, said although no specific vaccine or medication was yet available for novel coronavirus, patients were responding to treatment.

Mr. Fukuda added that Saudi Arabian authorities had taken novel coronavirus very seriously and had initiated necessary health measures such as increased surveillance systems.

Source:Reuters Health
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