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Deadly New SARS-Like Virus, Coronovirus, Claims Ninth Victim in Saudi Arabia

Update Date: Mar 12, 2013 10:27 PM EDT
Coronavirus, MERS
WHO announced that MERS is not a public health threat because human-to-human transmissibility is weak. (Photo : Reuters)

The novel coronavirus, a deadly new virus from the same family as SARS, has killed its ninth victim in the world since it was first reported last fall, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

A Saudi man, 39, fell ill with the novel coronavirus (nCoV) on February 24 and died on March 2, the WHO said in a statement. The new NCoV is part of a family of viruses that cause a variety of ailments including the common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The new virus however is different from SARS, especially in that it causes rapid kidney failure.

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NCoV reported symptoms in the confirmed cases of human illness include; acute severe respiratory illness, breathing problems, fever and shortness of breath. Almost all patients developed pneumonia and there were some reported cases of kidney failure.

To date, WHO has been informed of a global total of 15 confirmed cases of human infection with nCoV, including nine deaths. The nine fatalities have been confined to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Britain. In the latter country, it affected a family, one of the members of which had visited the Middle East and Pakistan.

"Preliminary investigation indicated that the patient had no contact with previously reported cases," the United Nations agency said in a statement. "Other potential exposures are under investigation."

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the nCov is a cause for concern despite having no reported cases in the U.S. In a report released last Thursday, the CDC said that anyone who developed severe acute lower respiratory illness within "10 days after traveling from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries should continue to be evaluated according to current guidelines. "

A global SARS outbreak in 2003 killed about 800 people worldwide, with 8,000 reported cases. Research by scientists in Europe has found that NCoV is well adapted to infecting humans and may be treatable with medicines similar to the ones used for SARS. 

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