SARS-like virus under investigation

Sep 25, 2012 | News

Coronaviruses are usually spread through the air but in this case doctors are looking into the possibility of individuals being infected by animals. COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA

By Melinda Warren

The World Health Organization is monitoring a respiratory disease outbreak in Saudi Arabia that stems from the same family as severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS.

There have been two confirmed cases of the virus and it is suspected there is a third, according to a release from the Health Protection Agency in London.

One of the infected individuals living in Saudi Arabia has died. The other is from Qatar and is in critical condition in a London hospital.

“In the light of the severity of the illness that has been identified in the two confirmed cases, immediate steps have been taken to ensure that people who have been in contact with the UK cases have not been infected, and there is no evidence to suggest that they have,” Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the health agency said in a press release.

This new strand of the virus is different than any of the other cases that have been diagnosed in humans previously.

SARS killed 775 people worldwide in 2003 and 44 of those deaths were in Toronto.

However, some people in the health community are not convinced this virus could be an epidemic.

“Although it’s in the same group as SARS there are probably hundreds of other viruses in that group as well, including many that just cause a common cold so I don’t know if there’s a strong message there that it’s in the same group as SARS”, Stephen Lapinsky, an ICU doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital, told Humber News.

LISTEN: Stephen Lapinsky speaks with Humber News

Lapinsky also said the fact that there are only two confirmed cases means that the illness is not that infective or it doesn’t infect from human to human like SARS did.

This type of disease is a coronavirus and can cause lesser symptoms like the common cold or more severe respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and rapid kidney failure, Gregory Hartl, WHO spokesman told Reuters.

It is also not clear what the impact on travel to these countries where the virus is could be.