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February 13, 2013 11:24 am
A man is being treated in intensive care in Birmingham for a dangerous new form of respiratory infection, after the first known transmission within the UK of a coronavirus.
The case is the 11th known case worldwide of a SARS-like virus identified in the past few months, which has killed five people to date.
The Health Protection Agency said the latest patient had not been abroad recently but was a family member of another person being treated in the UK after travelling in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: “To date, evidence of person-to-person transmission has been limited. Although this case provides strong evidence for person-to-person transmission, the risk of infection in most circumstances is still considered to be very low.”
A further patient being treated in the UK, and one in Germany, had both been previously travelling in Qatar.
Another five have been diagnosed in Saudi Arabia, of whom three have died, and two more in Jordan, both of whom have died.
Prof Watson said: “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. However, this new development does justify the measures that were immediately put into place to prevent any further spread of infection and to identify and follow up contacts of known cases.
“We will continue to provide advice and support to healthcare workers looking after the patients and to contacts of both cases.” In light of this latest case we would like to emphasise that the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains very low.”
Professor Ian Jones from the University of Reading’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “At the moment all we know is that these are very rare infections which appear to originate in the Middle East and that the virus concerned is most similar to a virus found in bats. The most likely scenario is that an individual catches the virus in unusual circumstances either directly or via an intermediate animal and then suffers a severe respiratory infection requiring hospitalisation. Transfer between close human contacts may be possible but as there is no indication that the virus is circulating widely the level of threat posed currently is very low.”
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