Over the past four months, five more people have died from a newly diagnosed respiratory virus that hails from the SARS family, most recently a Saudi national who passed away on Feb. 10, the World Health Organization has said.
To date, the organization said it has been informed of a total of 13 confirmed cases of human infection with the novel coronavirus (NCoV), including seven deaths.
Health officials, however, told Reuters that those cases may simply be the most severe incidents, making it difficult to know the true prevalence of the virus.
The newswire adds that of those known to be infected, four were in Britain; one was in Germany; two were in Jordan and five in Saudi Arabia. At least two of those patients were Qataris who traveled abroad for treatment.
In the most recent fatal case, the patient died after nearly two weeks in a Saudi hospital, KSA’s Ministry of Health said. Last year, two Saudis were among the first to succumb to the previously unknown virus, which was discovered in September and causes fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.
Scientists are still working to determine how the virus spreads. Unlike many flu-like diseases, NCoV does not appear to be extremely contagious. SARS, for example, which hails from the same family as the new virus, spread quickly from person to person, killing nearly a 1,000 people in 2003.
But the virus has been found in patients within the same family, indicating that it can be transmitted between humans and discounting the previous theory that the diseases spreads through animals.
In its latest alert, issued Thursday, WHO said it continues to closely monitor the situation, and does not advise countries to conduct any travel restrictions or special screenings.
Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States (MS) to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.
Testing for the NCoV should be considered in patients with unexplained pneumonias, or in patients with unexplained, severe, progressive or complicated respiratory illness not responding to treatment, particularly in persons traveling from or resident in areas of the world known to be affected.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Anderson Issues