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Health
New SARS-like virus may have spread between people
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New SARS-like virus may have spread between people

New SARS-like virus may have spread between people
Photo Credit: Stephen M. Katz
Here Damien Dancy puts masks on his children Damaya, 3, left, and Damien, 7, on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach, Va. Hospitals in Hampton Roads are urging patients and visitors to wear a mask at their facilities to help stop the spread of the flu. The recommendation was issued Wednesday by more than two dozen medical centers. In a joint statement, the hospitals said the recommendation applies to hospitals, urgent care centers and branch clinics, among others. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Stephen M. Katz)

New SARS-like virus may have spread between people

A new illness similar to the deadly SARS virus has probably spread from person to person in the U.K.

Previous cases of this new virus, a coronavirus, have been seen in people who've returned from visits abroad. The latest case is in a person who hasn’t been abroad recently and is thought to have caught it from a relative, British officials say.

However, officials say the threat of the infection spreading remains very low.

Coronaviruses

Many coronaviruses are not a cause for concern. Some strains cause the common cold but also include SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The new coronavirus was identified in September 2012 in a person who died from a severe infection of the lungs. The virus caused fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing problems.

British officials  say 11 confirmed cases have been seen worldwide, including three deaths in Saudi Arabia and two deaths in Jordan. None have been reported in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Previous U.K. cases have been seen in people who travelled to Qatar, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

Person-to-Person Transmission?

Officials say two new cases were found in a U.K. resident who had recently been to the Middle East and Pakistan and a family member who had not traveled recently. They are in intensive care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. The family member has an existing medical condition that makes them more susceptible to infections of the lungs, officials say.

In a statement, Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at Britain’s Health Protection Agency (HPA),  says, "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 U.K.

"Although this case provides strong evidence for person-to-person transmission, the risk of infection in most circumstances is still considered to be very low. If novel coronavirus were more infectious, we would have expected to have seen a larger number of cases than we have seen since the first case was reported three months ago."

The HPA says special measures have been put in place to stop the infection from spreading.

SOURCES: U.K. Health Protection Agency.CDC: “Novel Coronavirus.”

© 2013 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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