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Another confirmed case of SARS-like virus in the U.K. raises alert

Coronavirus

As a third member of a family in England was diagnosed with a new SARS-like virus, world health officials are concerned that the disease could have developed a better ability to jump from person-to-person.

The “novel coronavirus” began raising alarm flags among health organizations worldwide last fall, as several patients who had recently traveled in the Middle East landed in hospitals in the U.K. and Denmark.

As of February 16, 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had been informed by its members of a total of 12 confirmed cases of human infection by the novel coronavirus, or NCoV, including five deaths.

The newly-infected patient in the U.K. apparently has a milder form of the infection and is doing well, according to the WHO.

In recent months, the novel coronavirus was identified in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan and other countries around the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), updating its Web page information on the new virus on Feb. 17, said the risk to travelers was thought to be low. It said, however, that health organizations around the world are increasing monitoring of respiratory illnesses and collaborating to learn more about the new coronavirus and the disease in humans.

The WHO said on Feb. 16 that U. K. health authorities had informed it of another confirmed case of infection with the novel coronavirus. The case is the third confirmed in the U.K. in February, said the WHO, and is in the same family cluster as two other recently-confirmed cases.

The new case, according to the WHO, raises the question of whether the infection has developed the ability to more easily jump from person-to-person. “The latest confirmed case does not have recent travel history outside the U.K. The case is recovering from mild respiratory illness and is currently well.”

Since the newly-confirmed case has no recent travel history, the WHO said it indicated that the infection was acquired in the U.K. “Although this new case offers further indications of person-to-person transmission, no sustained person-to-person transmission has been identified,” it said.

It said the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) is currently following up on all close contacts who may have been exposed to the recently-confirmed cases.

Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encouraged all member states to continue surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns. It advised testing for the new coronavirus in patients with unexplained pneumonias, or in patients with unexplained severe, progressive or complicated respiratory illness not responding to treatment. The organization said it is “closely monitoring” the situation.

The CDC recommended that travelers to countries on the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries monitor their health and see a doctor right away if symptoms like coughing, breathing difficulties, and fever develop. Countries on and near the Arabian Peninsula are Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen.