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SARS-like virus confirmed on Qatari man

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 25th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Medical authorities have confirmed that a 49-year-old man from Qatar, who previously traveled to Saudi Arabia, has been diagnosed with a SARS-like virus. The previously healthy man has since been hospitalized, and has been diagnosed with a coronavirus, which is in the same family as SARS.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS erupted in China in late 2002 and spread to a number of countries, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing about 775 before it disappeared in mid 2003.

Authorities are now hunting for cases of a mysterious viral respiratory illness that killed at least another person in Saudi Arabia.

A statement by the World Health Organization says that on September 7, the man was admitted to an intensive care unit in Doha, Qatar. He was transferred to Great Britain on September 11 by air ambulance from Qatar.

He is being treated for acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure.

The Health Protection Agency then compared the sequencing of the virus isolate from the Qatari national with that of a virus sequenced previously by the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

"This latter isolate was obtained from lung tissue of a fatal case earlier this year in a 60-year-old Saudi national and this comparison indicated 99.5 percent identity, with one nucleotide mismatch over the regions compared," the WHO statement said.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that include everything from the common cold to SARS. 

"Given that this is a novel coronavirus, WHO is currently in the process of obtaining further information to determine the public health implications of these two confirmed cases," the statement said.

Saudi officials identified a third case of a person who died, but didn't give further details. The World Health Organization said it was a suspect case that can't be confirmed postmortem.

The U.K.'s Health Protection Agency said it was investigating the case of a person from the Middle East who died in the U.K.

"There is no evidence at present to suggest that it is caused by the same virus or linked to the other two cases," the HPA said, adding that it was "aware of a small number of other cases of serious respiratory illness in the Middle East in the past three months."

The cases come a month ahead of the Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia's health ministry played down the threat. "Such occasions are rare . and there is no cause for concern," the health ministry said.

With no indication yet whether the new virus is like SARS, which spread from person to person, officials are tracking this new virus closely.

"There is way too little information," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said. "We don't know if the denominator is two cases or 20,000 cases. We don't know how it is transmitted."

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