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SARS-Linked Coronavirus Claims Two More Victims, WHO Confirms

Update Date: Mar 27, 2013 02:10 PM EDT

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that two more people have recently died from the novel coronavirus that is a distant cousin of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The death count from the novel coronavirus is 11. Though officials do not believe that the virus will break into a pandemic like SARS did, they are already worried because 65 percent of the confirmed cases have ended in death and they are not yet sure of how the disease is spread or its origins.

According to ABC News, the most recent death was a 73-year-old man who was flown to Munich, Germany for treatment from the United Arab Emirates. The other death was a person whose age is unknown. That person passed away in the United Kingdom and had a travel history that included Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Of the 17 confirmed cases of the disease, several had recently traveled to the Middle East. The WHO is asking health officials worldwide to look out for suspicious illnesses in people who recently traveled to the region.

Reuters reports that symptoms of the novel coronavirus include breathing problems, coughing, fever and pneumonia. The symptoms generally set in about 48 hours after infection. The coronavirus also attacks the kidneys, which can prompt renal failure. The virus triggers a dangerous immune response called a cytokine storm, which attacks cells even after the virus is out of the person's system.

According to the Los Angeles Times, officials still have very little clue of how the coronavirus is spread or its origins. Though investigators believe that the virus has its origins in bats - quite like that of SARS, which hopped from bats to cats to humans - it is not quite understood how the virus made the leap to humans.

One expert, Dr. Peter Katona from the University of California, Los Angeles, says that it is likely that the confirmed cases are simply the tip of the iceberg. He suggests that there are countless cases of infection that did not end in death, or that ended in more mundane illnesses like pneumonia so doctors did not bother to test for the coronavirus.

However, though there have been some cases that appeared to have been transmitted from person to person, that does not seem to be the primary mode of infection. Fortunately, when virus spread to become able to jump from person to person, they generally become less dangerous as well.

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