Health officials in the UK now believe a new virus from the same family as SARS that infected two Qatar-based people last year may be transmitted between humans, rather than caught from animals, the BBC reports.
Doctors have diagnosed a new case, the third in the UK, which this time is not linked to travel to the Middle East, although it’s believed the patient may have caught the virus from a close family member who’d recently travelled to the region.
Previously, the new virus was found in two patients from the same Saudi family, the first indication that it could be transmitted from human to human.
The coronavirus hails from a large family of viruses that include the common cold and SARS, a severe pneumonia first diagnosed in 2003 that killed some 800 people before it was brought under control.
However, specialists interviewed by the BBC say there is no immediate cause for alarm:
“There is really close contact involved here, it is not ‘true’ human transmission in the general public” says Prof. Ian Jones from the University of Reading. ”Although it is severe, it’s not doing anything worse than some other respiratory infections, it’s just a new one.”
And Prof. Wendy Barclay from Imperial College London told the BBC:
“We’re an incremental step closer to worrying, but it isn’t a worry where we need to say there is a pandemic coming.”
Credit: Colorized transmission electron micrograph of the new coronavirus courtesy of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases (NIAD)