By Sandra Birungi
A new SARS like virus has hit Britain with a third patient being confirmed with the deadly virus.
The virus known as novel coronavirus, or NCoV has so far claimed the lives of five people with those who have been mostly infected having been or recently lived in the Middle East.
With the new infection, the total number of infected, including those who died to eleven. Three have been diagnosed in Britain. NCoV was identified when the World Health Organisation (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 which 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) is a UK resident and does not have any recent travel history. He 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 on Monday. This latest case shows evidence of person-to-person transmission although WHO believes “the risk of sustained person-to-person transmission appears to be very low”.