redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
A twelfth person has contracted the potentially life-threatening, SARS-like virus that has only recently been discovered in humans, but health officials continue to assure the general public that the risk of widespread infection remains extremely low, according to various media reports published this weekend.
The new case, which was confirmed on Friday, is in the UK, making it the fourth British person to contract the novel coronavirus (NCoV) and the third to come down with the disease in one week´s time, according to Reuters reporter Kate Kelland. Of the twelve confirmed cases worldwide, five have died as a result of the virus, she added.
Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley reports the latest victim is the third member of the same British family to contract NCoV. The first member of that family had traveled to Pakistan and the Middle East, and both they and a relative with a pre-existing medical condition that could have heightened their risk of infection have been hospitalized.
“The third family member to have contracted the novel coronavirus is said“¦ to be recovering from a mild respiratory illness and is well,” Boseley added. “He or she has been advised not to meet with other people who are not part of the family, but only as a precaution. Other relatives and contacts of the latest person to be diagnosed are still being tracked down and tested.”
The virus was first identified in September 2012, when the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global alert warning that a Qatari man in England had contracted a virus that had never before been observed in humans, Kelland said. NCoV belongs to the same family as the coronavirus SARS, which surfaced in China more than a decade ago and infected 8,000 people worldwide, killing approximately one-tenth of them.
According to BBC News Health and Science Reporter James Gallagher, five of the 15 confirmed cases and three of the reported fatalities have occurred in Saudi Arabia. Two cases, both resulting in death, have been reported in Jordan, and one non-fatal case has been reported in Germany. Both that case and the UK ones involve individuals who had recently flown to Qatar.
“Although this case appears to be due to person-to-person transmission, the risk of infection in contacts in most circumstances is still considered to be low,” John Watson, head of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) respiratory diseases department, told reporters on Friday. “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.
“However, this new development does justify the measures that were immediately put into place to prevent any further spread of infection and to identify and follow up contacts of known cases,” he added. “We would like to emphasize that the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains very low. The HPA will continue to work closely with national and international health authorities and will share any further advice with health professionals and the public if and when more information becomes available.”