International health officials are closely monitoring a new respiratory virus associated with SARS is believed to have killed at least one person in Saudi Arabia and left another in critical condition in Britain.
In the latest case, British officials Saturday warned of new virus to the World Health Organization. Claimed to have found a man who was transferred from Qatar to be seen in London. He had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and is now treated in an intensive care unit after suffering kidney failure.
Health officials do not know yet whether the virus could spread as fast as it did or whether SARS could kill so many people.
“It is still in its early days,” said Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman. “At the moment, we have two sporadic cases and there are still plenty of gaps to be resolved.”
Hartl said it is unclear how the virus spreads. Coronaviruses usually spread in the air, but Hartl said scientists were studying the possibility that patients have been infected directly by contact with animals. He added that there is no evidence yet of human to human transmission.
“All possible routes of infection are being studied at this time,” he said.
So far there is no connection between the cases, except for trips to Saudi Arabia. SARS was initially to humans from civets in China.
Hartl said that no other country has so far reported similar cases to WHO.
Other experts said it is unclear how dangerous the virus.
“We do not know if this is going to turn into another SARS or whether it will disappear into nothingness,” said Michael Osterholm, a flu expert at the University of Minnesota. He added that it was crucial to determine the proportion of severe to mild.
SARS affected people in over 30 countries since spread from Hong Kong.
The British Health Protection Office and WHO said in statements that the citizen catarí 49 symptoms on September 3, having previously traveled to Saudi Arabia. He was transferred from Qatar to Britain on September 11 and is being treated in an intensive care unit of a London hospital for problems including kidney failure. Respiratory viruses rarely cause serious kidney problems.
The WHO said the virus from patient samples are almost identical to those of a Saudi citizen of 60 years who died this year. The organization has not recommended until travel restrictions and said the source of infection remains unknown.