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New SARS virus identified in Britain

Written by Andrew Daniel

Posted on September 25, 2012

The source of the virus was a 49 year old Quatari man with travel history to Saudi Arabia.

First showing symptoms of an acute respiratory infection on September 3rd, he a was admitted to an intensive care unit in Doha, Quatar on September 7th. He was then transferred by air ambulance transfer to Britain on September 11th.

Health Protection Agency scientists used gene sequencing techniques to compare a sample of the virus with a sample sequenced by Dutch scientists earlier this year. The Dutch sample came from a 60 year old Saudi national who died from the disease. Comparison of the samples have enabled the scientists to identify the virus as a new form of Coronavirus – the same family as SARS.

The World Health Organization has publicised the case under it’s Global Alert and Response program but does not currently recommend any travel restrictions as a result. In the past, these two incidents would not have been diagnosed and so identified as being due to the same virus.

It is too early to say whether these two otherwise unrelated incidents are simply rare events or if this is the early signs of something more serious.

Peter Openshaw, Imperial College’s director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection speaking to Reuters said:

“For now, I would be watchful but not immediately concerned” but added:

“Any evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission or of contact would be more worrying, raising the worry that another SARS-like agent could be emerging.”

Travellers booking ahead should check their travel insurance policies as many do not cover cancellation or curtailment costs for epidemics. Moneymaxim have compared policies, read the results here.