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SARS-Related Coronavirus May Spread from Person to Person

Update Date: Feb 13, 2013 11:38 AM EST

Health officials in the United Kingdom have received the strongest piece of evidence to date that the new coronavirus, which is related to SARS, may spread from person to person. This is because a person in the United Kingdom, whose name or age has not been released, is currently being treated with an infection of the disease. This person says that they probably received the illness from a family member.

This infection marks the 11th case of the coronavirus in the world, and the third in the United Kingdom. The first was marked by a person who traveled into the UK for treatment from Qatar, while the second case was a person who had traveled to the Middle East and Pakistan recently prior to infection. This case is the first in the UK without ties to the Middle East. There had previously been suspicion of person-to-person transmission, as a family in Saudi Arabia had all become ill with the coronavirus. However, that was not confirmed.

According to the BBC, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that include the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. Health officials are not yet sure about the source of the virus or how it spreads, though the leading theory is that the virus can be traced to bats. However, if the virus is spread from person to person, that makes the threat of the disease loom larger.

Regardless, officials say that the threat to the general population remains very low. There have been no signs of infection among the hospital staff, for example. The most recent case also appears to have a compromised immune system from an unrelated condition. "If the 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," John Watson, head of the UK's Health Protection Agency's department of respiratory diseases, explained in a statement. "The risk associated with the novel coronavirus to the general U.K. population remains very low."

Health officials are still remaining cautious. After all, as Bloomberg reports, the SARS outbreak infected 8,000 people and killed 774 in 2003. According to the Associated Press, SARS began with the infection of a handful of people before a mutation in the virus caused the outbreak.

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