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Sars-Like Virus Identified in Saudi Arabia

Sep 24, 2012 08:01 AM EDT

The World Health Organization (WHO) has detected a new Sars-like virus in Saudi Arabia after a Qatari man was identified with the virus.

According to the WHO statement, a 49-year-old man has been infected with the virus that belongs to the large family of Coronaviruses which also includes Sars. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or Sars, was first detected in 2002 in China that killed hundreds of people across the globe before it was controlled.

The Qatari man, who is currently being treated in Britain, fell ill having previously traveled to Saudi Arabia and admitted to a private clinic in Doha, Qatar on Sept. 3 following complaints of respiratory infection. He was reportedly moved from the clinic to a London hospital on Sept 11 via an air ambulance, reported Reuters.

WHO is currently in the process of obtaining more details about the consequences of the virus on public's health. Officials are reportedly ensuring that those who have come in contact with the Qatari man have not been infected, a BBC report said.

"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 case have not been infected, and there is no evidence to suggest that they have," Prof John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the UK's Health Protection Agency, told BBC.

The Qatari man is believed to be the second man to have been detected with the virus following a comparison of the gene sequences of the virus with a 60-year-old man who died last year. They both carried identical virus samples, although there is no strong evidence to prove that the infection was caused by the same virus.

"Further information about these cases is being developed for healthcare workers in the UK, as well as advice to help maintain increased vigilance for this virus," Watson said.

There is currently no evidence of the virus spreading from one person to another and returning of travelers to Saudi Arabia. WHO has also not suggested any travel restrictions until now.

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