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Beware Of Deadly New Virus, CDC Warns Officials

State and health officials have been warned about a deadly virus which has so far killed 8 of 14 infected people in the Middle East and the United Kingdom. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) explained that this virulent coronavirus is part of the same family of viruses as the common cold and SARS.

Experts believe this new coronavirus comes from the Middle East. Of the four confirmed infections in the United Kingdom, three occurred among people who had travelled to the Middle East, one of whom was a family member of an infected person, he had no history of recent travel and had never been to the Middle East. This means that it has become human-transmissible; infected humans can pass it on to other people.

One of the family members, the one who had not travelled, died. According to UK authorities, the patient had an underlying condition that may have increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.

The novel virus is a coronavirus, part of the same virus family as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and the common cold. During the SARS epidemic of 2003/2004, 10% of infected people were killed. This new coronavirus has a death rate of over 50% (8 out of 14 infected people have died).

"Corona" is Latin for "crown" or "halo". Coronaviruses have halo-like projections on their surfaces.

Coronaviruses 004 lores
Coronaviruses viewed under an electron microscope, with their crown-, or halo-like (corona) appearance

Scientists working at the Health Protection Agency, UK, say that the new coronavirus (N-CoV) is not the same as SARS-CoV (the virus that causes SARS), but is similar to it. N-CoV is similar to a coronavirus found in bats.

According to the CDC, no cases of infection with the new coronavirus have been reported in the USA.

The first case of the novel coronavirus infection was diagnosed Qatar, the patient was taken to the United Kingdom for treatment in September 2012.

According to Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at Britain's Health Protection Agency:
"The routes of transmission to humans of the novel coronavirus have not yet been fully determined, but the recent UK experience provides strong evidence of human-to-human transmission in at least some circumstances.

The three recent cases in the UK represent an important opportunity to obtain more information about the characteristics of this infection in humans and risk factors for its acquisition, particularly in the light of the first ever recorded instance of apparently lower severity of illness in one of the cases. The risk of infection in contacts in most circumstances is still considered to be low and the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains very low. The HPA will continue to work closely with national and international health authorities and will share any further advice with health professionals and the public if and when more information becomes available."


The CDC is advising doctors and health care authorities in the USA to be watchful for any patients who have been to the Middle East during the past 10 days with unexplained respiratory infections.

The CDC has set up a Coronavirus Website with infection updates.

What are the signs and symptoms of novel coronavirus infection?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the following signs and symptoms were reported in the confirmed cases of human illness:
  • acute severe respiratory illness
  • breathing problems
  • fever
  • shortness of breath
Virtually all patients develop pneumonia. In some patients there is kidney failure.

WHO and the HPA emphasize that with only 14 cases to go by, the features of the infection may change.

Novel coronavirus less human transmissible than SARS

Experts from the UK and WHO say that although the signs and symptoms of N-CoV are similar to those found in S-CoV (the virus that causes SARS), the novel coronavirus is much less human transmissible.

Nobody knows how widespread N-CoV is. Except for one person - the patient in the UK who caught the infection from a family member - how the others became infected is still a mystery. Health authorities do not know whether N-CoV infection resulted from close contact with infected animals or people.

In an official communiqué in February 2013, WHO asked all Member States to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and to carefully review unusual patterns. Patients with unexplained pneumonias should be tested, as should those with unexplained severe, progressive/complicated respiratory illness who do not respond to treatment.

WHO, the HPA and the CDC do not advise screening people at points of entry, or implementing any travel or trade restrictions.

Written by Christian Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today