March 13, 2013
Ninth Death From Novel Coronavirus Confirmed By WHO
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Last Friday (Mar 8), health officials with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the SARS-like coronavirus (NCV) was on the rise and warned American doctors that the virus could strike the United States.Yesterday (Mar 12), the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that it had received confirmation from the Saudi Arabia health ministry that another person has died from the virus, raising the death toll to nine and total case count to 15 since the first case was discovered last fall. Six of the deaths reported to the WHO have come from Saudi Arabia
The Saudi health ministry told the WHO that the 39-year-old man was hospitalized with NCV on February 28 and died two days later (Mar 2). The ministry said the patient did not appear to have had any contact with anyone who was already infected.
The WHO, now left with more questions than answers, said it is investigating other potential exposure sources. The health agency is urging all member states to up their surveillance measures and be on the lookout for severe acute respiratory infections (SARIs) and to carefully review any unusual patterns that arise.
The WHO is trying desperately to get a handle on the outbreak and vowed it will continue to work with international experts and countries where cases have been reported to ensure surveillance and monitoring doesn´t falter.
NCV comes from the same family of viruses as those that cause the common cold and also the one that caused the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002-03 in Asia. NCV, though not the same as SARS, shares some very close similarities.
Symptoms of NCV include severe respiratory illness, fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. Research by European scientists have shown that this novel virus is well adapted to infecting humans and may be treatable with medicines similar to the ones used during the SARS outbreak, which killed about 10 percent of the some 8,000 people that became ill.
While most of the cases of NCV have surfaced in Saudi Arabia, there is cause for alarm that it could quickly spread after a UK man that traveled to the Middle East country infected two family members upon returning home from his visit.
"Once it gets you, it's a very serious infection," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. On the positive side, NCV is “very difficult to acquire,” he added.
With SARS, many people caring for patients became infected too. In the new cases, Schaffner explained, we are not seeing this, which is a very good sign.
Like SARS, however, NCV is suspected to have originated in animals. A study published in November found that the new coronavirus was genetically similar to one that was found in bats.
While the US has been spared so far from the virus, health experts said they will not be shocked if it does make its way into the country.
"It could happen," Dr. Susan Gerber, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC's Division of Viral Diseases, told CNN in February. "That's why the CDC is working closely with the World Health Organization and other international partners."
While the CDC is keeping a close watch on the NCV outbreak, it has not issued any travel restrictions to countries where the virus has been found. As well, the WHO has not recommended travel or trade restrictions for any of these countries.