Centers for Disease Control warns about threat posed by new, unknown virus

By JULIE STEENHUYSEN | REUTERS | MARCH 8, 2013

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday warned state and local health officials about potential infections from a deadly virus previously unseen in humans that has now sickened 14 people and killed 8.

Most of the infections have occurred in the Middle East, but a new analysis of three confirmed infections in Britain suggests the virus can pass from person to person rather than from animal to humans, the CDC said in its Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report on Thursday.

The virus is a coronavirus, part of the same family of viruses as the common cold and the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that first emerged in Asia in 2003. The new virus is not the same as SARS, but like the SARS virus, it is similar to those found in bats.

So far, no cases have been reported in the United States.

According to the CDC’s analysis, the infections in Britain started with a 60-year-old man who had recently traveled to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and developed a respiratory illness on January 24, 2013. Samples from the man showed he was infected with both the new virus and with H1N1, or swine flu.

This man subsequently passed the infection to two members of his household: a male with an underlying illness who became ill on February 6 and subsequently died; and a healthy adult female in his household who developed a respiratory illness on February 5, but who did not need to be hospitalized and has recovered.

The CDC said people who develop a severe acute lower respiratory illness within 10 days of returning from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries should continue to be evaluated according to current guidelines.

The health agency said doctors should be watchful of patients who develop an unexplained respiratory infection within 10 days of traveling from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries. The CDC has set up a special website with updates on the infections at http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ncv/ .

Symptoms of infection with this new virus include severe acute respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath. Neither the CDC nor the World Health Organization has issued travel restrictions related to the virus.

SARS-like virus kills British Patient

AP |  FEBRUARY 19, 2013

A patient being treated for a mysterious SARS-like virus has died, a British hospital said Tuesday.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, central England, said the coronavirus victim was also being treated for “a long-term, complex unrelated health problem” and already had a compromised immune system.

A total of 12 people worldwide have been diagnosed with the disease, six of whom have died.

The virus was first identified last year in the Middle East. Most of those infected had traveled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Pakistan, but the person who just died is believed to have caught it from a relative in Britain, where there have been four confirmed cases.

The new coronavirus is part of a family of viruses that cause ailments including the common cold and SARS. In 2003, a global outbreak of SARS killed about 800 people worldwide.

Health experts still aren’t sure exactly how humans are being infected. The new coronavirus is most closely related to a bat virus and scientists are considering whether bats or other animals like goats or camels are a possible source of infection.

Britain’s Health Protection Agency has said while it appears the virus can spread from person to person, “the risk of infection in contacts in most circumstances is still considered to be low.”

Officials at the World Health Organization said the new virus has probably already spread between humans in some instances. In Saudi Arabia last year, four members of the same family fell ill and two died. And in a cluster of about a dozen people in Jordan, the virus may have spread at a hospital’s intensive care unit.