World Bulletin / News Desk
A new virus belonging to the same family as the SARS virus that killed 800 people in 2002 has been identified in Britain in a man who had recently been in Saudi Arabia, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Sunday.
The United Nations health body, which issued a statement through its "global alert and response" system, said tests on the patient, a 49-year-old Qatari man, confirmed the presence of a new, or novel, coronavirus.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which includes the common cold and SARS.
"Given that this is a novel coronavirus, WHO is currently in the process of obtaining further information to determine the public health implications," the statement said.
SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, appeared in China in 2002 and killed some 800 people globally before being brought under control.
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.
The WHO said the Qatari patient had first presented to doctors on September 3, 2012 with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection.
On September 7, he was admitted to an intensive care unit in Doha, Qatar, and on September 11, he was transferred to Britain by air ambulance from Qatar.
"The Health Protection Agency of the UK conducted laboratory testing and has confirmed the presence of a novel coronavirus," the WHO said.
It said scientists at the HPA compared gene sequences of the virus from the Qatari patient with samples of virus sequenced by Dutch scientists from lung tissue of a fatal case earlier this year in a 60-year-old Saudi national.
The two were almost identical, it said.
Openshaw said the fact the two cases found so far are apparently unrelated suggests "that what has been picked up is just some rare event that in past times might have been undiagnosed".
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."
The WHO said it was not recommending any travel restrictions but would be seeking further information on the virus.
'Protecting human rights is key to responding to the Ebola outbreak,' HRW says
World Health Organization and Public Health Ministry on May 8 announced confirmed cases of Ebola in the country
Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo is a 'wake-up call,' says head of West African Health Organization
Tobacco use is falling, but not fast enough, with active or passive smoking killing over 7 million people every year
Slogan for this year's campaign is 'Time to see beauties'
Developed by high school students in west Turkey, microchip gets award in US, Europe
UN reports cases of Ebola virus disease 'in an urban center' that killed 25 so far
In a statement, the UN agency said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus would convene an emergency committee to discuss the matter.
Following is a recap of past epidemics of Ebola as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) battles a new outbreak of the deadly tropical disease:
In the absence of rules, travel agencies offer trips to the region on boats sometimes equipped with helicopters or submarines, according to Segolene Royal, French ambassador for the Arctic and Antarctic poles.
Three health care workers among 19 deaths, World Health Organization says
World Health Organization concerned about potential regional spread of deadly virus
Doctors Worldwide provides orthopaedic training to health personnel
People suffering from advanced cardiac or pulmonary insufficiency to benefit from device made at university in Izmir