The World Health Organization announced a positive finding regarding the new virus with SARS similarities discovered in London last week: it appears to not transmit easily between people. The health agency had put out a global alert a few days ago over the tenatively named, potentially deadly Novel Coronavirus 2012.
The virus seems to have originated in the Middle East. The first infection case was discovered earlier this month in a critically-ill patient from Qatar who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia. Another man, who had apparently had the same virus, had just died in the same area the Qatari patient had traveled to. (Source: Reuters)
The Qatari patient was air transported to a London hospital, for treatment of his symptoms, where the true nature of his infection was discovered.
The WHO has allied with a team of specialists from multiple countries in order to more accurately gauge the health risk that Novel Coronavirus 2012 poses to the general public. The virus is currently being monitored closely by the UN health agency, while they decide what actions need to be taken.
Both patients who have been infected by Novel Coronavirus 2012 have suffered renal failure in addition to other symptoms. So far, no other cases of infection have been confirmed.
Not the Same as SARS
The little-known virus shares a number of similarities with the now-contained coronavirus SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), the outbreak of which was responsible for the deaths of over 900 people, with a 10.9% fatality rate. The last case of a SARS infection was seen in June 2003, excepting a lab-induced infection in 2004.
But despite those superficial similarities, according both to the virus’ behavior its genetic makeup, Novel Coronavirus 2012 is a totally different pathogen. Based on initial test results, there is some evidence that the virus infection may have originated from animals.
The WHO recommends that health workers be alert to anyone with acute respiratory syndrome requiring hospitalization who has spent any time in the Middle East region where the virus was found, or has been in contact with a suspected or confirmed case in the previous 10 days.
So far, no international travel restrictions have been put in place in relation to Novel Coronavirus 2012.
Despite the fact that the virus seems to not be easily transmitted between people, there is a great deal of concern about Muslims making the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Almost 2 million people from other countries traveled to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage last year.
At this time, international health agencies including the World Health Organization are still learning about the virus, the public health risks, and what steps are appropriate.
As you read this blog, scientists in multiple countries are conducting virology tests as part of the World Health Organization’s efforts to completely understand — and contain — the virus as quickly as possible. To that end, so far, international laboratory researchers have decoded the genetic makeup of Novel Coronavirus 2012, and have developed tests for diagnosing possible cases in patients.
When the SARS outbreak happened in 2002, it was months before WHO was even alerted to its existence. A big part of why Novel Coronavirus 2012 was detected so early compared to SARS has to do with improved genetic technology called deep sequencing.
Thanks to deep sequencing, laboratories can identify and viruses that are closely related as well as viruses that are mutating. The higher-tech process decodes genetic sequences at a very high level of accuracy so that even the smallest differences between viruses are apparent.
At the same time, the similarities that are discovered can help scientists and health experts to make more accurate assessments as to a new/mutated virus’ characteristics and behavior, earlier in the timeline.
We will keep you updated at Air Medical Net on any important developments related to Novel Coronavirus 2012.