Deadly new Sars-like illness could pass between humans
Three cases in the UK, but risk to the public remains 'very low' say health officials
THERE are concerns that a new and deadly Sars-like respiratory illness, recently detected in the UK, can be passed from human to human.
Although there have only been 11 confirmed cases of the virus around the world since it was identified in September 2012, three of them have been in the UK.
It is thought that the illness, which causes pneumonia and sometimes kidney failure, originated in the Middle East and may have been passed to humans from bats. Five of the victims have died.
The first case was identified at London's St Thomas's Hospital in a person who been flown from Qatar to be treated for an unspecified illness. Earlier this year a second case came up, in a person who had travelled to the Middle East and Pakistan. They are being treated in hospital in Manchester.
Now there are concerns that a family member of the second victim has also fallen ill. They are now in intensive care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. The patient is said to have underlying health issues that could have made them more susceptible to infection.
"If the virus can spread between people it poses a much more serious threat," the BBC reports. "If the infection needed to jump from an animal to a person each time the threat would be much lower."
The new illness is a type of coronavirus, a family of infections responsible for a range of conditions from the common cold to Sars, which killed 800 people around the world in 2003.
Officials are stressing that the risk to the general population is "very low", The Times reports.
John Watson, head of respiratory illnesses at the Health Protection Authority, told the paper: "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." ·