World Bulletin / News Desk
A new and potentially fatal virus from the same family as SARS which was discovered in a patient in London last week appears not to spread easily form person to person, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.
In an update on the virus, which has so far killed a Saudi man and made a patient from Qatar critically ill, the United Nations health agency said it was working with international partners to understand the public health risk better.
"From the information available thus far, it appears that the novel coronavirus cannot be easily transmitted from person-to-person," it said in a statement.
The WHO put out a global alert on Sunday saying a new virus had infected a 49-year-old Qatari who had recently travelled to Saudi Arabia, where another man with the same virus had died.
The Qatari was described as critically ill on Tuesday and is being treated in a London hospital. No new confirmed cases of infection with the virus have since been reported, the WHO said.
The new virus shares some of the symptoms of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, another coronavirus, which emerged in China in 2002 and killed around a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.
Both patients who have so far been confirmed with the virus suffered kidney failure.
"Given the severity of the two laboratory confirmed cases, WHO is continuing to monitor the situation in order to provide the appropriate response, expertise and support to its member states," the WHO statement said.
Scientists at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which monitors disease in the European Union, said initial virology results and the separation in time of the only two confirmed cases suggest the infection may have developed from animals. Such diseases are known as zoonoses.
"(It) is quite probably is of zoonotic origin and different in behaviour from SARS," the scientists wrote in a "rapid communication" study in the online journal Eurosurveillance.
The WHO's clinical guidance to its 194 member states says health workers should be alert to anyone with acute respiratory syndrome and requiring hospitalisation who had been in the Middle East where the virus was found or in contact with a suspected or confirmed case within the previous 10 days.
The U.N. agency has not recommended any travel restrictions in connection with the new virus, but said it was working closely with Saudi authorities on health measures for Muslims making the haj pilgrimage to Mecca.
Health experts said rapid progress has already been made in figuring out the nature and genetic makeup of the new coronavirus, and in the development of sensitive and specific diagnostic tests.
The WHO said it is working with laboratories in various countries to make these tests available as quickly as possible.
'This is all bad news for the planet,' head of the World Meteorological Organization says
UN agency calls for urgent climate deal as hundreds of thousands fall victims to weather disasters
Fifty grams of processed meat eaten daily increases risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, say experts
COP21 conference aims at securing a pact on greenhouse gases that would limit global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times.
Earth is on track for average warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, exceeding UN's anticipation
The London Project to Cure Blindness was established a decade ago to try to reverse vision loss in patients with age-related macular degeneration
Improvement has been seen around the globe, even in the key tropical rainforests of South America and Africa
Christiana Figueres says there is 1.2 million euros deficit to cover upcoming sessions
Some of the world's major cities, most Pacific island nations are at risk of disappearing due to rising seas
Yemen forces allied to the Houthi have launched a scud missile toward southern Saudi Arabia
Three dozens of fires may cause an ecological catastrophe to Lake Baikal in Russia
National and international slow responses to epidemies show how far the world is from achieving global health security
Call for action in madrassas and mosques around the world is intended to emphasize the role Islam can play in combating climate change
New reports claim parent company Alphabet is attempting to fight malaria and other diseases transmitted via insects
Scientists are predicting that Earth could be heading towards an extraordinary event which would see compasses point south and the sun rise in the West.