One more person from Qatar and three more people from Saudi Arabia have been diagnosed with a previously unknown respiratory virus that hails from the SARS family, the World Health Organization has said.
That brings the total number of patients with the the virus to six, two of whom have died, including one recently. Both of the patients who died were from Saudi Arabia.
Qatar and KSA have been under surveillance for the disease, whose patients present with fever, coughing and breathing difficulties, since it was first discovered by the WHO in September.
But the organization now tells member states that doctors should test any patients with symptoms of rapid-onset pneumonia, not just those who have recently traveled to the Gulf:
Until more information is available, it is prudent to consider that the virus is likely more widely distributed than just the two countries which have identified cases. Member States should consider testing of patients with unexplained pneumonias for the new coronavirus even in the absence of travel or other associations with the two affected countries.
Unlike many flu-like diseases, this new respiratory virus does not appear to be extremely contagious. SARS, for example, which hails from the same family as the new virus, spread quickly from person to person, killing nearly a 1,000 people in 2003.
However, the new virus has been found in two patients from the same Saudi family, indicating that it can be transmitted from human to human. The previous working theory was that the virus could have originated in bats, but the WHO says it is still investigating how the disease spreads.
Investigations are ongoing in areas of epidemiology, clinical management, and virology, to look into the likely source of infection, the route of exposure, and the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the virus.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Council of Health said the second Qatar-based patient was diagnosed on Tuesday, after being admitted to Hamad Hospital last month. AP reports that he was transferred to Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for treatment and has recovered enough to be released this week.
QNA adds that the SCH is monitoring any suspected cases and no other patients have been diagnosed with the new virus.
Credit: Photo by Jo Christian Oterhals