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SARS-type virus passed from human to human for first time

February 13, 2013


Passed between humans: A person is being treated in Birmingham in isolation after contracting coronavirus

A SARS-like virus may have been passed between humans for the first time, health experts believe.

One person is thought to have contracted the new coronavirus from a relative and is being treated in an isolation room at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and is said to be in a stable condition.

Previously experts believed the infection may have come from contact with animals. If the virus can spread between people it poses a much more serious threat.

This is the third case of the respiratory illness identified in the UK and the 11th in the world. The first two UK patients had been abroad to the Middle East, where it is believed the illness originated.

In the latest case the patient had not been abroad recently and is thought to have contracted the illness from a relative.

The new patient is understood to have a long-term medical condition which makes them more susceptible to respiratory infections

Experts said there have been other linked cases, elsewhere in the world, but this represents the best evidence yet of person to person transmission,.

But they added that the risk to the general population remains low.

Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the Health Protection Agency, said: “Confirmed novel coronavirus infection in a person without travel history to the Middle East suggests that person-to-person transmission has occurred, and that it occurred in the UK.

“Although this case provides strong evidence for person to person transmission, the risk of infection in most circumstances is still considered to be very low. If novel coronavirus were more infectious, we would have expected to have seen a larger number of cases than we have seen since the first case was reported three months ago.”

Coronaviruses normally cause coughs and colds and are spread through droplets in the air. However this new variation is causing severe pneumonia and in some cases kidney problems.

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