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Threats Of New SARS-Like Virus Linger
Health officials in Britain have reported the third case - two of which come from the same family - of a new SARS-like virus. These findings demonstrate that the deadly infection is being spread from person to person and bring the worldwide number of confirmed infections with the new virus - known as novel coronavirus, or NCoV - to 11. Of those, five have died.
According to Reuters reporting, NCoV was identified when the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an international alert in September 2012 saying a virus previously unknown in humans had infected a Qatari man who had recently been in Saudi Arabia.
The virus belongs to the same family as SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - a coronavirus that emerged in China in 2002 and killed about a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide. Symptoms common to both viruses include severe respiratory illness, fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.
Britain's Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the latest patient, who is a UK resident and does not have any recent travel history, is in intensive care at a hospital in central England.
"Confirmed novel coronavirus infection in a person without travel history to the Middle East suggests that person-to-person transmission has occurred, and that it occurred in the UK," said John Watson, the HPA's head of respiratory diseases.
He said the new case was a family member in close contact with another British case confirmed earlier and who may have been at greater risk because of underlying health conditions.
The WHO said although this latest case shows evidence of person-to-person transmission, it still believes "the risk of sustained person-to-person transmission appears to be very low".
Coronaviruses are typically spread like other respiratory infections such as flu, traveling in airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Yet since NCoV was identified in September, evidence of person-to-person transmission has been limited.
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