The new virus, known as HCoV-EMC, is from a family of coronaviruses which are responsible for the common cold and the SARS virus which killed more than 800 people worldwide during an outbreak in 2002 and 2003. It is genetically related to a type found in bats and the unusual virus seems to have mutated to a form which is capable of not only infecting humans, but alarmingly, can be spread from human contact alone.
The international medical community has been aware of the new illness since last year when it broke out in the middle east. At that time, eleven cases were reported including five deaths. Until now, it was unclear if the outbreak clusters were due to personal transmission or if they were all exposed to the same non-human source.
Now, the death of a man in Britain has ended all doubt. The BBC has reported the first cases of transmission of the Novel Coronavirus through close contact with an infected person. An ill man returning from Pakistan infected two of his sons. One later died, possibly complicated by a previous medical condition.
Officials in the UK have located all fellow passengers on the man's flight from Pakistan and are checking to see if any of those may have also been infected.
Currently there are only 14 known cases worldwide, with limited and clustered outbreaks reported in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and the United Kingdom. Eight of those victims have died.
Most of those sickened experienced severe lower respiratory symptoms with one instance of a mild infection where the victim recovered without medical treatment.
There are no travel restrictions currently in place, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is asking health professionals to report cases of acute respiratory infection in persons who have travelled to the Arabian Peninsula within the previous 10 days, or anyone who may have had close contact with persons who have recently returned from the Arabian Peninsula or neighbouring countries. More information can be found in this FAQ from the CDC.
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