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.
The three worst-hit countries of West Africa - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - account for the bulk, recording 4,912 deaths out of 10,114 cases
There are 883 confirmed cases of the deadly virus, out of which 319 people have died since 2012, the WHO says
WHO announces one million doses of Ebola vaccine to be produced in 2015
That pact would aim to improve on two decades of stuttering cooperation and rein in emissions of carbon dioxide blamed for a disruptive rise in temperatures
The World Health Organization last month urged the use of blood-derived products and serum from survivors.
Pentagon rapid-response Ebola medical team was scheduled to begin training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas
Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), which is even more expensive and difficult to treat than multi drug-resistant (MDR-TB) strains, has now been reported in 100 countries around the world.
Device can be used in the field without special equipment, according to developers
The technique involved transplanting what are known as olfactory ensheathing cells into the patient's spinal cord and constructing a "nerve bridge" between two stumps of the damaged spinal column.
The meeting in Cuba is aimed at keeping Ebola at bay and it brings together senior officials from the ALBA bloc of nations
Wildlife conservationists have struggled to reverse a decline in numbers of several African species, undermined by ferocious poaching by gangs which mostly ship the ivory to Asia.
Jerald Dennis is feeling stigmatized by his neighbors and has been shunned by his friends
Peru's 2,679 glaciers, spread over 19 snow-capped mountain ranges, are the source of the vast majority of the country's drinking water.
Some 85 percent of people said they thought the disease spread through sneezing or coughing, despite the fact that the World Health Organization regards that type of transmission as unlikely
No approved specific drug or treatment available for battling fatal pandemic virus hitting many West African countries
The death toll so far in the outbreak, first reported in Guinea in March, has reached 4,447 from a total of 8,914 cases, said WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward.