Four new cases of SARS-like virus found in Saudi, Qatar

Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:18pm EST
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - A new virus from the same family as SARS which sparked a global alert in September has now killed two people in Saudi Arabia, and total cases there and in Qatar have reached six, the World Health Organisation said.

The U.N. health agency issued an international alert in late September saying a virus previously unknown in humans had infected a Qatari man who had recently been in Saudi Arabia, where another man with the same virus had died.

On Friday it said in an outbreak update that it had registered four more cases and one of the new patients had died.

"The additional cases have been identified as part of the enhanced surveillance in Saudi Arabia (3 cases, including 1 death) and Qatar (1 case)," the WHO said.

The new virus is known as a coronavirus and shares some of the symptoms of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which emerged in China in 2002 and killed around a 10th of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

Among the symptoms in the confirmed cases are fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.

Of the six laboratory-confirmed cases reported to WHO, four cases, including the two deaths, are from Saudi Arabia and two cases are from Qatar.

Britain's Health Protection Agency, which helped to identify the new virus in September, said the newly reported case from Qatar was initially treated in October in Qatar but then transferred to Germany, and has now been discharged.   Continued...