SARS-type virus confirmed in man being treated in UK
New type of coronavirus similar to disease that claimed hundreds of lives in 2003 has already killed one person
A MAN is being treated in a London hospital for a disease similar to the SARS virus, which killed hundreds of people in 2003 and sparked fears of a pandemic.
The 49-year-old patient was brought to the UK from Qatar by air ambulance, the BBC reports. He is the second person to be diagnosed with the new disease; the first, who is now dead, was in Saudi Arabia.
Gregory Hartl, spokesman for the World Health Organisation, told Reuters that the patient has symptoms of an acute respiratory infection and kidney failure.
"The patient is still alive but, as we understand, in critical condition," he said.
"We are still investigating this. We're asking for information from whoever might have seen such cases, but as of the moment we haven't had any more notifications of cases."
He told AFP that at the moment it was impossible to be certain of a link between the Saudi case and the Qatari case. "We haven't heard of any more new cases. We don't have an appreciation of how widespread the virus is," he said.
"We don't know how it's transmitted."
Professor John Watson, head of respiratory diseases at the UK's Health Protection Agency, said: "In the light of the severity of the illness that has been identified in the two confirmed cases, immediate steps have been taken to ensure that people who have been in contact with the UK case have not been infected, and there is no evidence to suggest that they have.
"Further information about these cases is being developed for healthcare workers in the UK, as well as advice to help maintain increased vigilance for this virus."
The new disease is a coronavirus, which is the same family as the common cold and Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome). The latter spread from Hong Kong to 37 countries in 2003 and nearly became a pandemic. From 8,422 confirmed cases, it caused 916 deaths worldwide.
There has been a rash of severe respiratory diseases in the Middle East in the past three months. One case was treated in the UK but the patient died.