Following this week’s global health alert about a new, potentially untreatable respiratory virus that may have originated in Saudi Arabia, the World Health Organization is asking medical staff to keep their eyes peeled for new cases.
That means looking out for anyone with acute respiratory syndrome that includes fever above 38C (100.4F) and cough, requires hospitalization, who had been in the area where the virus was found or in contact with someone with a suspected or confirmed case in the past 10 days, the organization told its 194 member states.
“We don’t know if all cases of infections are as severe as the two cases we have currently or in fact whether there have been two million cases of this virus and only two severe cases,” (a WHO spokesman) said.
WHO first issued an alert on Sunday after a Qatari man in critical condition was diagnosed with a new coronavirus, which hails from a large family of viruses that include the common cold and SARS, a severe pneumonia first diagnosed in 2003 that killed some 800 people before it was brought under control.
A Saudi man has already died from the virus.
To quell fears, the kingdom announced it is taking measures to prevent the spread of disease before next month’s Hajj.
That includes monitoring some 2 million pilgrims as they enter the country via land, air and sea, and obtaining samples “if any symptoms are apparent,” KSA’s deputy minister for public health told Reuters on Wednesday.
His remarks came as Denmark quarantined five people who presented with fever, coughing and influenza-like symptoms yesterday.
“Just as with bird and swine flu we have admitted them and isolated them so that we prevent the spread to others,” chief physician Svend Stenvang Petersen of Odense University Hospital said, Gulf News reports.
But the three adults and two children, which included a person who had visited Qatar and a family of four whose father had visited Saudi Arabia, are expected to be released today after testing showed they suffered from a typical influenza strain.
Though it is staying vigilant, WHO officials also called for calm as they try to find out more about the new virus.
A spokesman told reporters yesterday: ”This is not Sars, it will not become Sars, it is not Sars-like.”
Credit: Photo of WHO headquarters courtesy of WHO