A 49-year-old Qatari who recently visited Saudi Arabia has been been diagnosed with a new virus that could have major public health implications, the World Health Organization has said.
The “previously healthy” man, who was admitted to the ICU in Qatar on Sept. 7 after showing signs of an acute respiratory infection, was transferred to the UK via air ambulance on Sept. 11, the WHO reports.
There, lab testing confirmed the presence of a new coronavirus, which 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.
The scientists found the gene sequences of the Qatari’s virus to be almost identical to samples of virus sequenced from a fatal case earlier this year in a 60-year-old Saudi national.
Peter Openshaw, director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London, said at this stage the novel virus looked unlikely to prove a concern, and may well only have been identified due to sophisticated testing techniques.
“For now, I would be watchful but not immediately concerned,” he told Reuters…
But he added: “Any evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission or of contact would be more worrying, raising the worry that another SARS-like agent could be emerging.”
No travel restrictions have been recommended by the WHO yet, but the organization continues to look into the matter.
With the start of school and changing weather, flu season seems to be upon many people in Doha. Protect yourself and others by covering coughing mouths and keeping those hands washed!
Credit: Photo of WHO logo by US Mission Geneva