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SARS-like Disease Infects First Victim In 2013

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First Posted: Feb 11, 2013 04:46 PM EST
UK resident is the first person in 2013 to be infected with SARS-like disease.

UK resident is the first person in 2013 to be infected with SARS-like disease. Credit:Reuters

A strange new disease related to SARS has infected its first individual for the year.

British officials at the Health Protection Agency have confirmed that a UK man is currently suffering from what doctors call a "coronavirus" infection. He recently returned from trips to the Middle East and Pakistan, and is currently in intensive care at a hospital in Manchester.

Since the SARS-like illness was first discovered last year, there have been 10 confirmed cases, including this most recent one. Two have been diagnosed in the UK, but the HPA reassures the general population that risk of infection is very low.

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"Our assessment is that the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains extremely low and the risk to travellers to the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding countries remains very low," said Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, in a statement.

"No travel restrictions are in place but people who develop severe respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath, within ten days of returning from these countries should seek medical advice and mention which countries they have visited."

Last November, scientists were able to map the virus' full genome, enabling further study and sparking hope that not only will its origin be pinpointed, but also that new treatments will be developed to combat its lethal force. Out of 10 known infections, five patients have died.

Symptoms have included acute respiratory problems as well as kidney failure. Since there is no concrete treatment for the disease, efforts at this point are focused on prevention.

"A battery of laboratory tests have been developed by the HPA to test for coronavirus infection when cases of severe respiratory illness are identified, which are not explained by other infectious causes," said Professor Maria Zambon, director of reference microbiology services at the HPA. "These tests, which detect the presence of virus in the body, are available for use by selected frontline HPA laboratories."

Though the origin is unknown at the time, one infectious disease researcher at the University of Minnesota told CBS News that bats could have transmitted the disease to other animals like camels, which then passed it on to humans.

The other infections have been documented in Saudi Arabia (five cases, three fatalities), Jordan (two cases, two fatalities), Germany (one patient from Qatar, discharged), and the UK (two cases, two patients receiving treatment).

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